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Dispensing GPs on the brink

By Nigel Praities

More than 700 practices face losing their dispensing rights if the Government presses ahead with plans set out in the Pharmacy White Paper, Department of Health documents reveal.

The Department's own impact assessment sets out in bleak terms the potential repercussions of the legislation for primary care.

It estimates that forcing all practices within 1km of a pharmacy to stop dispensing - one of the options on the table - would result in 716 practices losing the right to dispense medicines.

The move would cost the practices a total of £21m – the equivalent of 128 full-time equivalent GPs. As many as 18% of the patients dispensing practices currently prescribed to would lose the right to collect their prescription at their GP practice.

The official estimates were published as the DH launched a consultation on the proposed changes to the dispensing rights of practices located close to existing pharmacies.

But dispensing GPs and their leaders said the reality of the impact would be a far bigger disaster, which would cost thousands of jobs.

The white paper sets out options including forcing all practices within a certain distance of a pharmacy to cease dispensing medications.

Other options under consultation include ‘no change' or letting PCTs conduct needs assessments to decide locally which practices are allowed to dispense.

But GP leaders hit out at what they called ‘illogical' Government estimates, which they said would prove ‘absolutely devastating' for many practices.

The Dispensing Doctors' Association (DDA) estimates the proposed changes could see dispensing practices lose 50% of their income and over 5, 500 jobs overall.

Dr David Baker, DDA chief executive said: ‘The calculations are illogical. They haven't taken into account what will happen once they change these criteria. Pharmacists will move closer to doctors forcing them to stop dispensing, as it will make good business sense to do so,' he said.

Dr Lisa Silver, a GP at a dispensing practice in Nettlebed, Oxfordshire, said the figures ‘just don't stack up' as the comparison was unfair.

‘I am absolutely stunned by this. We are delivering a quality service to over 3.5 million patients. What happened to the Government's claims to want patient choice?' she said.

Dr David Bailey, GPC spokesperson on dispensing, said the GPC was putting together an alternative cost and impact assessment to the Government's and would be strongly arguing for the ‘no change option'.

'absolutely stunned.' Dr Lisa Silver 'absolutely stunned.' Dr Lisa Silver

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