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GPs “to be allowed to sell over-the-counter drugs”

24 March 2009

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A newspaper claims that doctors’ surgeries will be able to sell medicines to their patients for profit under plans being drawn up by the government.

According to the Daily Telegraph, ministers are considering changing NHS rules to allow GPs to sell some medicines over the counter for commercial gain. It also suggests that doctors will not need approval for the sale of the medicines, raising the prospect of GP receptionists selling the products to patients.

If the plans are passed it would be the first time doctors would be able to make money from their patients’ illnesses, raising questions about the principle of the NHS that treatment should be based on medical need and not commercial interest.

The Daily Telegraph claims to have seen a Whitehall document showing that ministers have backed the plans, even though officials have warned that a financial incentive could lead to patients taking more drugs.

The Department of Health has studied the plans as part of a drive to make patients more responsible for the management of their own conditions.

Norman Lamb, the Liberal Democrat health spokesman, said: “This is a potentially dangerous move, which could risk undermining the fundamental relationship between GP and patient.

“While it could provide extra convenience for patients we must be very cautious to avoid any risk of profiteering.”

Copyright © Press Association 2009

Department of Health

Your comments (terms and conditions apply):

“The amount of trouble and the cost involved in selling OTC meds from our dispensary compared with the meagre income to be made is hardly worth the effort. It might be an additional service for some patients I suppose. Those opposing dispensing doctors clearly don’t know what it’s like living in the sticks where it is a 10-mile round trip to the nearest pharmacy or supermarket!” – Name and address withheld

“Practice managers and GPs need to be aware that staff will need training to deliver this. Imagine the problems from untrained staff selling P medicines eg, aspirin to a patient on warfarin to name one – it isn’t allowed in pharmacies, the pharmacist has to be aware of the sale and be able to step in and the staff have minimum training requirements. Who will be liable if something goes wrong? How will GPs reconcile telling patients they can’t have something on a script but are welcome to buy it at reception? I guess the idea is for increasing accessibility but this could be no safer than allowing the local garage to sell more medicines” – Stefan Fec, Powys

“I don’t even think that GPs should be able to dispense under the current ridiculous, obselete rules so I certainly would not support commercial sales OTC” – Quentin Hill, Burton upon Trent