Call to keep dispensaries

Ministers were yesterday urged not to press ahead with plans to stop GPs from dispensing medicines to patients.The government is looking at radical plans to overhaul pharmacies which could only allow family doctors to dispense drugs if the surgery was at least one mile from the nearest chemist.

Ministers were yesterday urged not to press ahead with plans to stop GPs from dispensing medicines to patients.

The government is looking at radical plans to overhaul pharmacies which could only allow family doctors to dispense drugs if the surgery was at least one mile from the nearest chemist.

There are four options on the table - three of which could affect a GP's right to hand out medication.

In Norfolk 34 out of 95 practices have a dispensary, but health chiefs are not clear what impact the measures in the government's pharmacy white paper will have if enacted.


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The Lib Dems put forward, with Tory support, a motion to yesterday's full meeting of Norfolk County Council lobby the government and MPs to rethink the changes.

Fran Pitt-Pladdy said the measure would have a detrimental effect in both rural and urban areas.

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“It would mean that elderly people who live some distance away would no longer be able to collect their medicines when they go to the doctor, and they will have to make extra journeys,” he said.

Council leader Daniel Cox echoed concerns that the plans were flawed.

“The government needs to give this a bit more thought before they go with this,” he said.

But Labour's Irene McDonald, whose party abstained from the vote, said that she had received assurances from health minister Dawn Primarolo that patients facing difficulties getting to a pharmacist could still request to get their pills from a GP.

“The motion is at best irrelevant and at worst misleading,” she said. “If GPs are going to use this as way of existing I think there is something wrong with the health economy.”

But in a separate move Dr Bryan Heap, NHS Norfolk Medical Director, said health chiefs had no intention of closing any dispensaries - though he admitted the final decision rests with the government.

“We can at this stage only speculate what the final government decision will be in terms of the proposed changes,” he said. “It is however not the intention of NHS Norfolk to close any community pharmacies or general practice dispensaries. We would hope that changes might be made to enable us in the future to have more say in proposals that could, as on occasions happen, not be in the best interests of existing practice dispensaries and community pharmacies.”

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