Dispensing prescriptions requires a smooth process, says Joanne Taylor. Here she recounts how just a few changes to the workflow in one pharmacy made a big difference

At Vittoria Healthcare, it is important that tasks are completed accurately and in a timely manner, as I’m sure is the same for all pharmacies. But for this to happen, it is essential that we review the workflow in each pharmacy to ensure that work literally flows through the pharmacy in the best way. We recently reviewed one of our pharmacies and just a few changes made a big difference.

There are three main areas of a dispensary. The first is the main dispensing bench, with the computer, label printer and baskets ready for prescriptions to be dispensed. The second is the back dispensing bench, where MDS are completed and the third area, on a side bench, is where we receive and check orders prior to putting stock on the shelves.

Despite the separate areas, prescriptions coming into this particular pharmacy did not seem to ‘flow’ through the process. Following discussions with the whole pharmacy team, we moved the computer to one end of the bench, with different coloured baskets to show waiting prescriptions or ‘call back’ prescriptions placed to the right of the monitor. This was just behind the area where counter staff are able to place prescriptions in the baskets to pass to the dispensing team.

The front counter had already been divided into two – one for incoming prescriptions and the other for giving out prescriptions. There was enough room on the right hand side of the computer for medication to be placed in the basket with the prescription prior to labelling. Once the labels had been produced, they would be placed in the basket with the items for a second person to attach the labels and perform an accuracy check. The labels would be signed as dispensed and then passed along the bench for the final accuracy check.

With these changes, the prescriptions travelled in one smooth process, while other dispensing jobs were completed away from the main bench. Segregating incoming stock and the MDS areas meant that errors were reduced and staff could concentrate on the task in hand. The chairs in the waiting area were also moved so that staff could provide advice and maintain patient confidentiality.

Just these simple changes enabled staff to prioritise their work and build a better team. And patients seemed very happy too. So, have a think about how your processes flow. Why not have a team meeting to see if you can improve your workflow and see if the changes make a difference to your patients.


Joanne is a registered pharmacy technician and ACPT, and is professional standards lead at Vittoria Healthcare. She is national secretary for the Association of Pharmacy Technicians UK (APTUK), and is a member of the Medicines Rebalancing Programme Board at the Department of Health as well as TM’s editorial advisory panel.

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