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Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee

Parliamentary News

HoC Oral Answers - 23.07.08

Pharmacies

Mr. Graham Stuart (Conservative, Beverley and Holderness)

What effect he expects the outcome of the pharmacy consultation to have on the viability of local GP practices in (a) Beverley and Holderness constituency and (b) England.

Dawn Primarolo (Minister of State for Public Health)

We have no proposals in the pharmacy White Paper "Building on strengths-delivering the future" that should affect the viability of GP practices. The White Paper is considering the control of entry provisions for dispensing services, not general medical services offered by GPs.

Mr. Graham Stuart

GPs who serve rural areas, such as the Hedon group practice, which I visited on Friday, provide a highly valued dispensing service to the surrounding areas. The practice uses some of the income from that to subsidise unprofitable branch surgeries, such as the one in Keyingham. Will the Minister accept that the pharmacy White Paper proposals do threaten the viability of those carefully constructed and excellent services?

Dawn Primarolo

No, I do not. The average GP partner of a practice who does not dispense earns about £120,000 a year; a dispensing GP partner would earn, on average, about £20,000 a year more, taking their income to £140,000. It is also true that dispensing GPs have smaller list sizes, but even allowing for that, the average income a year for a GP dispensing medical services would not become unviable. I reiterate that there are no proposals to end dispensing by doctors. I accept entirely the point that Members have made about the need to look carefully at each area to make sure that provisions are available, but we have a duty, when considering the extension of pharmacy, to consider the rules for dispensing doctors, which have been in place since 1912.

David Taylor (Labour/Cooperative, North West Leicestershire)

But the suggestion is that where dispensing chemists exist within 1 mile of a GP practice, the right of that practice to dispense will cease. That would hit very hard practices that serve rural areas in north-west Leicestershire, such as the Measham medical unit, which uses the money that it gets to provide more doctors and better facilities. Can the Minister suggest how the high reputation of such practices and the high quality of service that they provide to many thousands of patients in rural areas will be protected under the proposed framework?

Dawn Primarolo

If my hon. Friend looks at the White Paper on pharmacies, he will see that it is to do with extending the provisions through the 10,000 pharmacies in this country, making them health centres and ensuring that they can do some of the diagnostic work that Members discussed earlier, such as diabetes testing. As regards the 1,100 dispensing practices in this country, I would say to my hon. Friend that there is no suggestion whatever in the White Paper that dispensing GPs are to be abolished. That is an unfortunate proposition, which is being put around by some, and it simply is not true. The points that my hon. Friend makes about ensuring continued provision in rural areas are entirely accepted on the basis of the services needed.

Mr. Philip Dunne (Conservative, Ludlow)

I have listened very carefully to the Minister. Can the House take it from what she has said that, in contrast to the comments made-quite properly, as I interpreted the White Paper-by the right hon. Member for Leicester, East (Keith Vaz), dispensing GPs who are more than a mile from an existing commercial dispensary will continue to be allowed to dispense, irrespective of the consequences of the consultation?

Dawn Primarolo

With respect to the hon. Gentleman, I would say that if he can find in the White Paper the proposition that dispensing GPs are to be abolished, I would be grateful if he pointed it out. It is not there. The purpose of the White Paper is to consider the control of entry for pharmaceutical services in local areas. There are 10,000 pharmacies, and the issues are to do with access to those services. I am sure that he would accept that, while wanting to protect dispensing GP services where there are no other services available, which makes those services essential to the rural area, it would be quite remiss of the Government not at least to look at the rules concerning circumstances in which a GP dispensing service is on the opposite side of the road to a pharmacy. That is all we are doing.

Posted 23 July 2008

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