Yet again GPs are asked to defer to a specialist
Prescription charges are back in the spotlight with the BMA’s demand for their abolition this week – and that in turn has turned the focus on the man leading the Government’s review.
By Richard Hoey
Prescription charges are back in the spotlight with the BMA's demand for their abolition this week – and that in turn has turned the focus on the man leading the Government's review.
Professor Ian Gilmore, president of the Royal College of Physicians, is by all accounts a very nice bloke and a brilliant consultant gastroenterologist.
He is also, so a couple of senior GPs have suggested to me, precisely the wrong person to be setting out recommendations for the future of prescription charges to ministers.
It's nothing personal. As a consultant physician and gastroenterologist, an honorary professor of medicine and a policy expert on alcohol misuse, Professor Gilmore knows an enormous amount about all sorts of things.
He just happens, as someone whose career has been devoted to secondary care problems, to have only a bare minimum of experience of the day-to-day frictions and inequities the current system of charges causes across the broad range of conditions treated in general practice.
It is bad enough having Lord Darzi lecture GPs about Starbucks and suggest no surgery is complete without a supplementary sprinkling of community consultants.
But surely of all the vast array of Government reviews into NHS policy in recent times, this was the one that should have been handed to a GP.
The Government review of prescription charges was hamstrung before it started, by the premature and slightly bizarre announcement that cancer patients would be exempt from charges, and by the narrowness of its remit, which does not extend to considering the BMA's call for universal free scripts.
The fear expressed to me is that the review could ask GPs to make the call on whether a patient is sufficiently chronically ill to merit getting their medicines for free. Rationing, albeit on a minor scale, could be coming to your surgery.
Suggestions like that would be rejected out of hand by any practising GP. But with a consultant in charge, who knows what the outcome may be?By Richard Hoey, Pulse deputy editor