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Dispensing surgeries’ patient safety questioned

2 December 2008

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Patient safety may be at risk from dispensing surgeries that put profit ahead of service, according to a report from the Royal Pharmaceutical Society.

It says that surgeries are prescribing “in line with practice income in preference to PCT targets”, and have “no duty to practice quality prescribing.”

“Provision of dispensing services by pharmacists is safer for the patient than doctor dispensing, and PCTs should make every reasonable effort to commission services that maintain the role of the pharmacist in the care pathway,” it says.

The Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee has said that pharmacies are better for patient safety, although changing the dispensing rules may have a “catastrophic” effect on access to pharmacies in rural areas.

The claims have been dismissed by Dr Clive Henderson, a GP at a dispensing practice in Market Weighton, East Yorkshire, who said the assumptions the report is based on are flawed.

He said: “We certainly have no evidence to show our dispensing patients are being put at any more risk than town patients. Quite the reverse actually.”

Dr David Baker, Chief Executive of the Dispensing Doctors` Association (DDA), said the report is “hugely unhelpful” and put the interests of the pharmacy profession over patient care.

Copyright © Press Association 2008

Royal Pharmaceutical Society

Your comments (terms and conditions apply):

“I agree with previous comments [below], this report is yet another attack on dispensing doctors. Where is the evidence to support this report? I have seen no evidence that shows more mistakes are made by dispensing doctors than pharmacists. The majority of our staff have been dispensing for 19-20 years, they are well trained, know the patients and their medication. Dispensing is a vital service to rural patients, who can collect their medication at the same time as seeing the GP” – Anna Richardson, Essex

“Patient safety is not the issue here. This is part of the attack by pharmacies to rid themselves of competition without having to invest in better facilities. How many pharmacists have proper consultation rooms rather than a converted cupboard? How many keep patients’ details secure and confidential as opposed to shouting across the till? Our dispensing staff are highly proficient, well trained and capable. They work under tight controls and they have close working relationships with the GPs as well as providing the generally overlooked but very valuable continuity of care and convenience to the patient” – Name and address withheld

“Of course not. There is no evidence to support this ridiculous assertion. Dispensing practices adhere to rigorous checking systems. Trained staff dispense under the supervision of the patient’s doctor who holds the patient’s medical history” – Irene Bainbridge, Essex