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New pharmacies endangering rural GP practices

1 October 2007

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Rural GP services are increasingly under threat as new pharmacies are introduced without warning, doctors warn.

GPs in some of the most isolated communities in Scotland offer their own pharmacy-type dispensing services, where no pharmacist or chemist is available.

This ensures that patients have access to essential pharmacy services and GPs benefit from the additional income that comes from dispensing.

But changes to pharmacy contracts mean that community pharmacies are more viable in smaller communities and GP practises are losing their dispensing rights.

Dispensing doctors in small communities believe these changes could negatively impact upon the provision of patient care.

Dr Andrew Buist, Deputy Chairman of the British Medical Association’s Scottish General Practitioners Committee, said: “We can appreciate the desire of NHS boards to approve new pharmacies in some areas previously serviced by dispensing doctors, but careful consideration must be given to the impact this will have on the provision of GP services.

“Generally dispensing practices use income from dispensing to provide a wider range of services for their patients, often employing additional staff such as nurses or extra GPs.

“Consequently, the withdrawal of dispensing income may pose a serious threat to the sustainability of these services.”

He adds that practices may be destabilised by the loss of substantial portions of income over a short period of time, saying: “We therefore believe that NHS Boards should be obliged to consult with local residents to establish their views before approving pharmacy applications.”

British Medical Association

Your comments: (Terms and conditions apply)

“I entirely concur with Dr Buist’s comments. Also, unless the rural pharmacy is located close to the GP surgery, the patient is inconvenienced. Surely all the political drive towards accessibility of services should support the “one-stop shop” that dispending GPs can provide?” – Andy Button, Berkshire

“GPs, this ensures that there is a pharmacy near the surgery, rather than miles away. Community pharmacies could never be economic if they are to open the same hours as GPs” – Name and address supplied