This site is intended for health professionals only

The longest ‘urgent’ prescription in history

What’s your turnaround for a routine script? Forty eight hours, right? And for an urgent prescription? You know, when a brittle asthmatic’s inhaler gets munched by the dog he shouldn’t have? Yep, sorted instantly at the request of a hassled and pleading receptionist.

So a 14-month – and counting – wait for an urgent prescription must be something of a record. Yet that’s what we have with the GPC’s Urgent Prescription for General Practice.

Remember that? Nope, not sure if I do, either. The timelines and the facts have become blurred, but maybe that’s the general idea. As far as I recall, in January last year, a special LMCs conference called for a ballot on the nuclear option of mass resignation unless NHS England pulled its finger out. In spring 2016, the GPC made its Urgent Prescription request, then, only a week or two later, with much fanfare and charging of cavalry, we got the GP Forward View.

Still with me? Good, there’s more. The May 2016 LMCs conference agreed that the GP Forward View was, in fact, a wee in the wind and demanded that the NHS bosses accept the Urgent Prescription or else etc etc. But the resurrected ballot threat was quietly dropped because of technical/legal/general defeatism issues.

Since then we’ve had a contract revision and another LMCs conference – and what has been notable about the implementation of, and debate about, the Urgent Prescription is that there hasn’t been any. And lest we forget, it contained a sensible number of specific, achievable and potentially transformative proposals, such as a cap on the number of appointments per day and a nursing home DES. Whereas the GP Forward View was more like a man standing on a street corner shouting endless initiatives and arm’s length packages in a language we didn’t understand until either we wandered off or he got sectioned.

So where are we now, post latest LMCs conference? Good question. We’ve got U-turns (QOF) and more tentative ballot talks (closing lists), but the Urgent Prescription, that key demand containing key proposals, seems to have vanished into thin air – along with the real mood of militancy that had been giving those of us on the frontline a glimmer of hope.

Once again, an attempt to display a show of strength has simply revealed the profession’s impotence. Still, at last I can bin those urgent prescription requests.

Dr Tony Copperfield is a GP in Essex. You can follow him on Twitter @DocCopperfield