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Dispensing threat for GPs

Pharmacy application process is unfair according to BMA Scotland

OnMedica Staff

Friday, 11 June 2010

The lack of transparency in the pharmacy application process is unfair to dispensing practices, the British Medical Association in Scotland has said today.

BMA Scotland was responding to the Scottish Government’s consultation on the control of pharmacy applications.

The doctors' organisation also expressed concern at the impact that the creation of a new community pharmacy can have on the range and level of services offered by these GP practices, which are often located in the most remote and rural parts of Scotland.

Dr Dean Marshall, chairman of the BMA’s Scottish General Practitioners Committee, said:“Patient satisfaction surveys demonstrate that patients value the services that dispensing practices provide. In a remote and rural area where patients tend to be older and where public transportation is limited patients often prefer to collect their medicines from the same place that they have consulted their GP.

“A GP practice’s right to dispense has no legislative protections and can be withdrawn by the NHS Board at any time. Where a pharmacy application is accepted resulting in a new pharmacy in the area, the practice can lose its right to dispense with immediate effect. This sudden impact on income can have a considerable affect on the practice and its patients and we believe that step down arrangements should be introduced to allow the practices a period of time to adjust."

He said that the problem was created by the lack of protection for dispensing status and compounded by "a seriously flawed pharmacy application process" as set out in the regulations.

"We welcome the government’s recognition that there are problems with the current process. What is disappointing and unacceptable is that even very poor quality applications cause practices anxiety. It is also unacceptable that the NHS uses considerable resources to establish that poor applications are inadequate and should be rejected,” he added.

The issue will be debated today at the Annual GPs Conference, which is being held in London.

Dr Hal Maxwell, a GP in Ayrshire and Arran will tell conference: “For many years the dispensing of medicines has been a service provided to patients by practices in areas where commercial pharmacies would not provide the service because it was not cost effective. Generally dispensing practices use income from dispensing to provide a wider range of services for their patients, often employing additional staff such as nurses or extra GPs. Loss of dispensing can and has affected the viability of rural practices. It is essential that action is taken to support dispensing practices.”

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