Article of the Week

This Week, Something Completely Different; Alastair and Richard Discuss Dispensary Design.

Two short Question and Answer Sessions on the importance of Dispensary Design and how this can affect your profitability.

Alastair and Richard Discuss Dispensary Design

Your dispensary design and layout is as important as your staff professionalism and your systems and processes. Get it right and you are onto a winner, get it wrong and you will lose income and sadly you may lose patients.

More Dispensary Design Discussions

For an informal discussion about your dispensary design and your options why not email Richard Kay via

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Stock Control is Vital for your Dispensary

FAQs – Stock Rotation, Stock Layout and Stock Control

Question – My Lead GP has asked me to review how often we check the shelves and stock dates as we check every three months – how often do most dispensaries check their stock dates?

Answer – Me and Alastair talked this through, and our opinion is that really a stock check on dates should be carried out on a monthly basis. And make sure that stock rotation is carried out at the same time, and check that new stock has not been put at the front of the shelf! New stock must be placed at the back of the shelving.

If it is “difficult” or “hassle” to put new stock in the back of the shelving system, then human nature can often kick in, and busy dispensers will resort to putting stock at the front of the shelf when under pressure. Most times with the intention of moving/rotating this stock at a later date, when less busy.

This is something which Richard Kay of Pharmacy Storage Solutions and I have spoken about a few times, poos shelf design leads to poor stock rotation, which leads to out of date stock, which leads to losses in the dispensary.

Your dispensary layout is something the GP partners CAN control, to minimise stock losses the shelf design is essential. New shelving is not going to break the bank either, and money spent on new shelving, or a dispensary refit pays for itself, usually within a year or two at most.

If you have time in your dispensary one idea is to use a system where you put a coloured sticker on short-dated packs to let everyone know which items need to be dispensed as quickly as possible. So, use a small red sticker for those packs of stock within three months of their expiration date. Depending on your shelving system this needs to be on the top or end of the box which faces the dispenser as a reminder.

Question – How Should I organise my stock?

Over the years I have been asked this question many times.

It really depends on the layout and design of the dispensary, as well as the actual size and space available. Many dispensaries are tiny and if they are not ergonomically laid out, can reduce the efficiency of dispensing and lead to a poor system of storage for medicines.

Simply put your stock should be organised by generic name, alphabetically from top left to bottom right. Preferably across one wall if possible, to avoid spaghetti walking. The shelves should also be low enough that all members of staff can reach the items on the top shelf without resorting to the dreaded “elephant’s foot”.

All fast-moving lines should be ordered in bulk, making sure that the best possible price is paid and the most profit generated.

If you are in any doubt about your dispensary layout or processes then get a fresh pair of eyes to come and take a look at what you are doing, often they can spot a problem or solution that isn’t always that easy to see when it is your own working dispensary.

And finally try and make sure that Look Alike Sound Alike [LASA] medicines aren’t stored too closely together and make sure that all dispensary staff are fully trained on LASAs. These are medicines where the possibility of a picking error is higher than normal. Take extra care with LASAs when putting away your delivery each day.

Examples include:

Amipicillin and Amoxicillin

Prochlorperazine  Prednisolone

Quetiapine Quinine

A great slide deck to learn more about LASAs can be found here:

Look-Alike Sound-Alike resources (

Question – How much stock should we hold in the dispensary?

Answer – As little as possible, is the short answer. Your first line wholesaler will do two deliveries per day usually and they should be your main source of medicine stock. If they can do same day/next day deliveries of most medicines, then why not let them take that burden from your shoulders?

Of course, there are items which are in short supply, not much you can really do about that other than keep an eye on what is coming up as Out of Stock on your order pad.

But going back to the value of stock on your shelves or amount of stock to hold, probably about two weeks stock is a good medium position on stock holding. Some retail pharmacies would hold less than that, but it’s a good compromise.

Most dispenseries and pharmacies really do not want to mess around with owings, it is messy and costs time and money.

If you are interested in having a chat with Richard about your dispensary design and layout please email


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