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Pharmacy leaders claim dispensing GPs are unsafe

By Nigel Praities

Dispensing surgeries are fighting for their future after the pharmacist professional body accused them of being ‘unsafe' and putting practice profits over quality of prescribing.

The incendiary claims were submitted to the Department of Health as part of its consultation over proposals to change the rules over dispensing and remove the right to dispense from surgeries up to 1km away from a pharmacy.

A strongly-worded response from the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain English Pharmacy Board said ‘inequitable and anomalous practices' meant practices should only be able to dispense ‘in response to exceptional public need'.

The RPSGB said dispensing practices had no ‘duty to practice quality prescribing', and were prescribing ‘in line with practice income in preference to PCT targets'.

‘The principal issues are patient safety and quality of medicines services. Provision of dispensing services by pharmacists is safer for the patient than doctor dispensing and PCTs should make every reasonable effort to commission dispensing services that maintain the role of the pharmacist in the care pathway,' said the response.

The Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee also argued ‘recent policy decisions' meant patient safety was better served in pharmacies, although it argued it was not currently appropriate to change the dispensing rules as it could have a ‘catastrophic' effect on access to pharmacy in rural areas.

But the claims over patient safety have angered dispensing GPs. Dr Clive Henderson, a GP at a dispensing practice in Market Weighton, East Yorkshire, said the document was ‘very biased' and was based on flawed assumptions.

'We have very careful governance procedures. We certainly have no evidence to show our dispensing patients are being put at any more risk than town patients. Quite the reverse actually,' he said.

Dr David Baker, DDA chief executive said the response was ‘hugely unhelpful' and put the ‘narrow interests' of the pharmacy profession over patient care.

‘We struggle to see the difference between a dispensing doctor choosing which drug to use and a pharmacist choosing which over the counter remedy to sell a patient. Neither profession is motivated purely by profit,' he said.

Other pharmacy groups have supported dispensing practices. In its response to the consultation, The National Pharmacy Association also supported the ‘no change' option, saying dispensing from practices was a ‘pragmatic solution' in rural areas.

Pharmacy leaders claim dispensing GPs are offering unsafe service Pharmacy leaders claim GPs are offering unsafe service

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