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GPs could be forced to manage high-risk drugs with no extra funding

Exclusive NHS England is currently considering whether GPs should be expected to prescribe warfarin and methotrexate as part of their core work without the need for an enhanced service, Pulse has learned.

NHS Basildon and Brentwood CCG is in talks with NHS chiefs over whether it can oblige GPs to prescribe both high-risk drugs without resourcing them to monitor the drug properly through an enhanced service. If it is successful, this could open the door for other CCGs to take the same action.

It comes after the LMC intervened to warn practices that the CQC was treating GP practices ‘harshly’ for not monitoring warfarin safely.

As a result, several practices have – under GPC advice – served the CCG notice that they will no longer be prescribing warfarin.

The CCG has also recently removed the funding for monitoring methotrexate, with practices fearing a similar clampdown by the CQC.

And CCG leaders are taking advice from NHS England over whether it can continue to insist practices prescribe such high-risk medications as part of their core work.

The CCG withdrew funding for practices to pay for the monitoring of anticoagulation four years ago, and has refused to reinstate it. Commissioning leads have since claimed practices should still prescribe warfarin according to advice in the patient’s handheld record, with patients’ INRs monitored by the local hospital.

But practices in the region are being downrated by the CQC for being unable to monitor the INR.

South Essex LMC has issued advice to practices, saying: ‘CQC inspectors in the area are of the view that regardless of the patient being under such a service, GP practices must also be viewing and monitoring the INR. Practices in South West Essex do not have the facility to view INR results requested by the anticoagulation clinic. This stance by the CQC has led to practices being treated harshly during inspections.’

The LMC added: ‘In the circumstances, the LMC fully supports any practice that chooses to withdraw from providing any nationally or locally agreed enhanced service, and is firmly of the view that prescribing warfarin outside of safely agreed and properly resourced commissioning arrangements is not essential GMS.’

The GPC has backed the LMC’s position, stating its view that ‘if the service was previously covered by an enhanced service then it’s not part of essential services and commissioners should have an appropriate service commissioned, to which practices could then refer’.

But NHS Basildon and Brentwood CCG said in a statement: ‘The CCG is taking advice from NHS England as regards the responsibility for prescribing of warfarin and will await the outcome of this request before considering any required action.’

Dr James Hickling, deputy medical director for NHS England Midlands and East, told Pulse: ‘We recognise there is variation in how primary care services are commissioned, and we support local commissioners having discussions about how they can offer tailored solutions which best meet their patients’ needs.

‘NHS England is working with NHS Basildon and Brentwood CCG regarding the responsibility for prescribing some high-risk medications.’