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Why not GP dispensing for everyone?

You're right to discuss the pharmacy white paper and I agree with pharmacist Noel Baumber that doctors and pharmacist should work together harmoniously for the benefit of patients.

But this is far from what is proposed. Its far-reaching effects will not be limited to the catastrophe about to be wrought on rural general practice.

The white paper proposes that NHS funding should be transferred from practices to companies providing medical services, both NHS and private.

Many pharmacies are located in supermarkets, which have increased sales from those waiting for their prescriptions to be dispensed. Rural practices reinvest their dispensing income locally to provide their patients with services they cannot easily access because of their distance from hospitals, all of which will be lost.

I wonder if it is an appropriate use of taxpayers' money given to the NHS for medical care to benefit shareholders, some of whom may reside abroad?

Pharmacists are an expensive commodity that rural communities can ill-afford, and few can support, but they do have a role in primary care.

But I would humbly suggest all medical services should be provided by members of a fully integrated primary care team where patients' needs are foremost, and not set apart from mainstream medicine in a supermarket or other retail outlet driven by the interests of shareholders.

It was originally proposed that all doctor dispensing should be abolished, but the option preferred by the vast majority of rural patients, that of a universal choice of doctor dispensing, has not been included as an option in the white paper. I wonder why not?

It's nearly 100 years since Lloyd George gave pharmacy its lucrative monopoly in state-funded dispensing. We live in a very different world and can no longer afford this doubtful luxury, which duplicates costs.

Perhaps the time has indeed come to allow true competition and permit every patient to enjoy their rights to the considerable benefits of doctor dispensing - but of course only if that is what they want.

Dr Paul Thomas, Singlehanded dispensing doctor, Barham, Suffolk

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