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Dispensing GP pandemic role raised in Parliament

Political challenges highlighted

April 27th 2021

Tagged: political news Pharmacy owners' news Rurality England COVID19

By Ailsa Colquhoun

Peers have used a debate on recent pandemic response legislation to raise the profile of dispensing GPs.

DDA advisor Baroness McIntosh of Pickering used her platform in the Lords to highlight significant challenges facing dispensing GPs, namely, that:

  • income from dispensing cross-subsidises the medical service
  • dispensing doctors do not have access to the electronic prescription service (EPS)
  • pharmaceutical needs assessment in England can place a dispensary under threat if a pharmacy application is made
  • lack of proper rural proofing.

She said the pandemic response of dispensing GPs should also be highlighted, alongside that of community pharmacies. She said: “Most dispensing practices have vaccinated their patients against COVID as there is no scope for large centres in remote and rural communities… most dispensing practices are, in effect, their own primary care network given the large practice areas and dispersed populations that they serve.”

The aim of the debate was to express regret that pandemic response legislation, the National Health Service (Charges and Pharmaceutical and Local Pharmaceutical Services) (Coronavirus) (Amendment) Regulations 2021, passed from 1 March 2021, does not address the underlying funding problems faced by pharmacies, which may affect the capacity of local pharmaceutical services to respond to future emergencies.

During the debate, peers highlighted EY report projections that by 2024, 72 per cent of pharmacies will be in deficit, with an overall shortfall to the sector of £43,000 on average to each pharmacy. Lords heard that 52 per cent of pharmacies in financial distress are planning to sell up.

The pandemic legislation allows, among other things, for the COVID home delivery service.