DoH rejects bid to relax dispensing rules during cold weather

The DoH will not relax dispensing rules to allow GP practices to dispense medication in cases where local pharmacies have closed due to adverse weather conditions.

'Emergency directions' called for pharmacies during severe weather conditions (Photograph: iStock)
'Emergency directions' called for pharmacies during severe weather conditions (Photograph: iStock)

A spokesman for the DoH said ‘emergency directions' are currently only invoked as part of a response to a specified health crisis such as a flu pandemic, and that a change in regulation would be needed before the measures could be used to deal with poor weather.

But in some areas patients have limited access to medication after local pharmacies closed during the adverse weather conditions.

The Knoll Surgery Partnership in Cheshire wrote to NHS Western Cheshire to request permission to dispense medication to its prescribing patients after local pharmacies closed following the heavy snow fall.

Paul Smith, practice manager at Knoll Surgery, said the PCT would not permit the request as there was no direction issued by Health Secretary Andy Burnham.

'The PCT also said the two pharmacies that had closed had made arrangements with other pharmacies in the area,' Mr Smith said. 'However, these are five miles away, which left us in the position of having to turn people away had they approached us.'

He added: 'The fact that the country has ground to halt suggests that this is an emergency situation.'

A DoH spokesman said: 'We are keeping the situation under review but a change would first be needed to the regulations to cover the current weather crisis. Many pharmacies can offer home deliveries to ensure patients receive the medicines they require.'

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