Newcastle MP Chi Onwurah sees how medicines are distributed across the North East

Newcastle MP Chi Onwurah sees how medicines are distributed across the North East

Sustained stock availability and supply of medicines are crucial for the health and wellbeing of people across the UK. Pharmaceutical wholesaling is a critical link in the supply chain ensuring the flow of medication from manufacturers to pharmacies and hospitals, but its role is often overlooked.

To gain insight into and understanding of the complexities of this process, Chi Onwurah, MP for Newcastle upon Tyne Central, spent time at the Alliance Healthcare Newcastle Service Centre which is located in her constituency to learn how vital medicines reach pharmacies and hospitals across the north east of England.

Over 1500 pharmacies, hospitals and GP surgeries order their medicines from this service centre, which first opened in 1994. Over 64 vans deliver twice daily* orders to pharmacies, hospitals and dispensing doctors across the country. Alliance Healthcare employs more than 120 people to pick and deliver medicines and other healthcare supplies. With outstations as far away as Berwick in the north, Silloth in the west and Whitby in the south.

During her visit on Friday 3 May Ms Onwurah was accompanied by Head of Medical Service Centres Michael Fowler, and saw the service centre in action. She was shown around the 55,000 square feet -automated warehouse, and witnessed how medicines are received and stored safely and securely, in accordance with the strict Medicines & Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) guidance. The team was then, as always, poised ready to swiftly fulfil orders sent in by pharmacists and hospitals, with most customers getting two deliveries every day in the week and one on Saturdays.

She was welcomed by Mike Smith, Non-Executive Chairman to Alliance Healthcare, with over 50 years' experience in pharmacy, and other directors, and briefed on the current issues around the supply of medicines and healthcare in general.

Commenting on his visit, Ms Onwurah said: ""It was amazing to see all the orders being picked and to understand what happens behind the scenes to ensure that patients get their vital medicines. It is really pleasing to see a large employer in our area investing so heavily in technology to speed up the process and ensure the highest levels of accuracy."          

The visit took place shortly after Alliance Healthcare celebrated its 80th birthday, having been founded in 1938 by pharmacist Ernest Skues. He set up a London-based cooperative of local independent pharmacists originally known as UniChem. It is now the UK's leading pharmaceutical wholesaler and is a member of Walgreens Boots Alliance, an international pharmacy-led health and beauty group, which also includes the well-known British pharmacy chain, Boots. Newcastle is one of 15 Service Centres run by Alliance Healthcare in a network spanning the whole of the UK.

Mike Smith said: "It was an absolute pleasure to meet Ms Onwurah and to talk to her about what we do to ensure that patients in North England get their medicines when they need them. Wholesalers are key to ensuring that people stay healthy and happy and we take extreme pride in performing this role. As we face economic and political uncertainty, some say this is the toughest environment faced by pharmacy in decades, and so we are doing whatever we can to support our customers and their patients. 


From left to right: Mike Smith Chairman Alliance Healthcare,  Chi Onwurah MP Newcastle and Alliance Healthcare team members.