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GP workload concern as ICB axes ‘financially unsustainable’ prescription service

GP workload concern as ICB axes ‘financially unsustainable’ prescription service

GP practices in one area could see ‘an increase in their administrative burden’ after the local ICB decided to decommission a prescription ordering service costing over £2m.

Coventry and Warwickshire ICB decided to decommission the Prescription Ordering Direct service at the end of March as it became ‘financially unsustainable’, as well as due to its ‘deteriorating performance’ and ‘operational difficulties’.

Currently there are 22 GP practices in the Warwickshire North and 48 in the Coventry area signed up to the service, through which patients can call a dedicated number to order a repeat prescription rather than getting it from their GP.

The ICB told Pulse that its analysis confirmed that the total cost pressure of the service was £2.5m in 2022/23.

According to documents from 2018, the project was initially developed to ‘support a reduction in medication waste’, which was estimated to be over £6 million every year.

The ICB said that GP practices ‘may see an increase in their administrative burden’ as they take on repeat prescription ordering themselves.

However, it encouraged patients to download the NHS App which can be used to order repeat prescriptions and nominate a pharmacy to collect them from.

In a report, the ICB said: ‘We are now in a transition phase of repatriating repeat prescription ordering to GP practices, which is part of their GMS contract. Support and funding is being made available to practices to manage this transition.

‘Practices may see an increase in their administrative burden as those patients who do not choose or are not able to access digital alternatives call the practice to order their medications.

‘Although this is a core GMS service and is the responsibility of GPs to provide this service within the terms of their contract, we are clear that this is a time when primary care is already under significant pressure and the ICB is committed to supporting our GP practices to manage any potential issues.’

It said that more than £200,000 has been made available to practices to support the transition and will be distributed ‘on a fair shares basis’ based on the number of patients from a practice using the service.

Coventry and Warwickshire ICB’s chief medical officer Dr Angela Brady told Pulse: ‘Whilst we regret having to make this decision, we have a duty to ensure value for money in our commissioning and therefore we could no longer justify continuing to run the service.

‘Over the coming months, POD staff will be supporting patients who use the service with the transition to a new method of prescription ordering, with each patient or carer being offered up to three opportunities to be coached on their preferred method.

‘We are also working closely with GP practices to support with the transition, including providing over £250,000 of funding for GPs and PCNs and offering training to practice staff in prescription administration.’

Broomfield Park Medical Centre said that the service was causing delays to access medication.

The practice said: ‘We appreciate that some patients will be concerned about the changes, but we’d like to reassure you that alternative arrangements will be made to ensure that everyone who used the POD service will be able to continue ordering and accessing their prescriptions.

‘We would kindly ask that you do not call the practice about this announcement. We will be contacting patients who use POD to confirm their options for ordering repeat prescriptions.’

Last month, GPs raised concerns around unintended workload consequences from having to check record updates that have been made under the Pharmacy First scheme.

In September, NHS England claimed that GP practices have already experienced ‘a reduction in administrative burdens’ after granting patients online access to records.

Meanwhile, a NHS App functionality, which went live at the end of last month, will allow patients to generate a prescription barcode to collect their medicines from any pharmacy.


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Please note, only GPs are permitted to add comments to articles

Oliver Barnsley 19 February, 2024 6:19 pm

So costs £2.5m/yr. However it was meant to reduce medicines wastage costing £6m/year… but did it? If reduced more than £2.5m of wastage then it is a cost saving! If not then potentially it was a failure.
I do agree that if you can get patients to order online / via app then that helps greatly also.

David Church 19 February, 2024 7:12 pm

Repeat prescription ordering is not and has never has been a contractual or other function of GMS contracted GP practices!
Repeat prescription issuing is a GP practice function, and I do not see how anything has taken that burden off practices, any more than any other systems for coordinating, such as nominated pharmacies ordering repeats, or even repeat dispensing (although RD has been a dreadful failure in most places I know where it was organised, excepting for daily issue prescriptions – and Vision could not even handle that in a GP-friendly sort of way)
However, many practices have, for very good reasons, moved away from patients telephoning in repeat requests, and I am not sure if we would want to reverse that, in view of the safety issues for which practices moved away from it.

Jonathan Heatley 19 February, 2024 7:48 pm

our ICB has decided to stop funding GP minor surgery to save money. we now refer it into secondary care.

Peter Scott 20 February, 2024 7:31 am

You’ll not stop medication waste until ALL people have to pay a token fee per item .. human nature being what it is. Then you’ll have the admin costs of administering the money. Then you enter the loop whereby Wales and Scotland cut that out by scrapping all scrip charges. You can’t win!