By Dr Richard West MBE
Although we keep you regularly updated with the latest developments in the world of dispensing, I like to send out a more personalised communication to members from time to time.
As we are now fifteen months away from a general election, I would like to survey the state of rural general practice and what we might do to shape the views of politicians.
Austerity looks set to be with us for some time yet, irrespective of the apparent good news contained in the Budget. For practices holding GMS contracts, the unpleasant reality of the phasing out of the Minimum Practice Income Guarantee (MPIG) is a grim reminder that the good times for general practice are very much behind us. For those of you with PMS contracts in England, the spectre of a “review” promises less funding available in the coming years, at a time when workload is rising inexorably.
At the same time, the NHS England Call to Action for general practice seems to envisage a world for patients where practices federate and ‘big is beautiful’ like the supermarket chains. Whilst this vision might excite the metropolitan elite, we know that rural communities value the local personalised service offered by their dispensing practices.
In pure dispensing terms, the latest news of a monthly reduction in Category M prices of £10 million from April (we account for approximately 8% of Category M), feels a bit like kicking a man whilst he is down!
This news makes it all the more imperative that the review of the dispensing doctor reimbursement system by NHS England is completed and significant improvements made. Please be assured that I have raised our concerns at the very highest levels of the Department of Health. At long last, I believe that the message has got through after what seems like an eternity.
If you have not already done so, I would advise you to contact your local MP, and candidates from other parties, to emphasise the enormous challenges we are facing, and will continue to face, long after the votes have been counted in May 2015. Please make use of the new resource zones on our website and share with us your problems with reduced funding, reimbursement and the supply chain.
These and many other of the issues important to you, will be considered at the Best Practice Show on 22/23 October at the NEC, Birmingham; our annual conference will now be part of this event. We sent out an e-mail alert recently containing a survey for the organisers and I would encourage you to respond if you have not already done so. Attendance is free and the NEC is easily accessible from all parts of the country by road, rail and air. I look forward to seeing you there.
Finally, I am able to report that, following analysis of NHS Business Services Authority data, we believe that dispensing practices cost 4.5 % less per item dispensed than community pharmacists. At a time when every single penny of NHS resources is being scrutinised for potential efficiencies, this is a good statistic to have at the ready. It is a great pity that this information was not referred to in the recent NHS Call to Action. We will be publishing the full information shortly on the website.