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BMA denies increase in GPs directing patients to specific pharmacies

GP leaders have rejected claims by pharmacists that there has been a rise in practices directing patients to specific pharmacies.

The pharmacy groups - the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiation Committee (PSNC) and Pharmacy Voice - said they were in ‘urgent discussions’ with the GPC after claiming to receive a ‘significant increase’ in reports from pharmacists about prescription directing. They said they wanted the GPC to look at making changes to contract regulations.

The GPC confirmed it met with the two groups earlier this month, but told Pulse it had found no evidence of GMC regulations being breached and that no contractual changes would be necessary.

The Department of Health said it is in discussions with the pharmacist groups about the concerns.

The PSNC and Pharmacy Voice claim some GP practices have led patients to believe they have no choice of pharmacy, while others have promoted one particular pharmacy.

In a joint statement, they said: ‘PSNC and Pharmacy Voice met with the Department of Health to raise the issue of the direction of prescriptions following a significant increase in concerns reported by pharmacists and LPCs… Urgent discussions on this matter are ongoing: we have agreed to combine the information we both have on this and have opened up discussions with GP leaders about the issue.’

Earlier this year, a practice in south London was censured for directing patients to one online pharmacy. And in Oldham residents launched a campaign against a practice they said was promoting its own pharmacy.

Steve Lutener, head of regulations at PSNC, said: ‘As there is usually an agreement between the directing GP and the receiving pharmacist, we believe the regulations for both professions will need to be changed and we have made suggestions for how this might work for pharmacy (we are not in a position to influence the GP contract regulations but plan to discuss this matter with the BMA).’

However, a BMA spokesperson told Pulse: ‘We believe patients should have a choice between a community pharmacy or GP dispensary and that financial ownership of all community pharmacies should be transparent.

‘However, we have not seen substantial, statistical evidence that there is an increased problem in this area or that GMC guidelines are being breached in any particular cases. We continue to discuss any issues in this area with any interested parties but we do not believe a change to GP contracts is required. 

‘The BMA is producing joint guidance which will allow LMCs and LPCs to address locally cases where concerns have been raised about arrangements between individual community pharmacies and GPs.’

A DH spokesperson said: ‘Patients should be free to redeem their prescriptions from any pharmacy they choose without being directed by their GP.

‘We have met with the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee and Pharmacy Voice to discuss their concerns over this practice. This process is in the early stages and will continue.’