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GPs demand home oxygen guarantees

GPs are demanding guarantees that emergency access to home oxygen through pharmacies will continue after a patient died amid the chaos of the switch to private provision.

By Emma Wilkinson

Pharmacies have been forced to step in and provide oxygen after regional contractors who took over the service on 1 February were unable to cope with demand.

But pharmacists warned they were running down stocks in preparation for complete handover to private provision and that GP FP10 prescriptions might soon not be honoured.

The death of 63-year-old Alice Broderick last week highlighted the dangers of the chaotic handover to provision by private contractors.

Mrs Broderick, from Carlisle, Cumbria, died after waiting for more than eight hours for oxygen requested by an out-of-hours GP from company Air Products.

Dr Peter Weaving, a GP in Brampton in Cumbria, said the switchover to the new system had not gone smoothly.

'It's created quite a lot of hassle for GPs and the out-of-hours service. It's even harder for them because they get a call in the evening when the oxygen hasn't arrived and they don't have the patient details.'

Dr Peter Joliffe, chief officer of Devon LMC, said he was 'deeply unimpressed' with the new system: 'It's a classic cock-up which is probably putting people's lives at risk.

'Pharmacists and GPs have ended up having to rescue situations all over the country. We don't believe the transitional arrangements are adequate.'

Dr Rob Barnett, secretary of Liverpool LMC and a GP in the city, agreed: 'It's yet another bureaucratic fiasco where they've tried to fix a system that's been working well for years. Until there's a guarantee the new system is failsafe we need a back-up mechanism where GPs can get supplies from pharmacists.'

Dr Peter Elliot, a GP in east London and prescribing lead for Redbridge PCT, insisted GPs wanted 'reassurance' oxygen would be available if needed. 'Pharmacists need a guarantee they will be recompensed if they over-order.'

Iqbal Gill, director of clinical and commercial operations at Lloyds Pharmacy, said pharmacists had warned the Government there would be problems. He called for a more staggered transition.

The Department of Health has asked pharmacists to continue to accept prescriptions until the 'glitch' is sorted.

Advice for GPs

  • Fill in order form in full
  • Allow three days for delivery except in emergency
  • Keep supplier aware of changes in hospital discharge plans
  • Do not phone to check receipt of order
  • FP10 for pharmacist dispensing can still be used if concerned

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