Free scrips cause unnecessary work

GPs in Wales are bracing them-selves for an influx of trivial new consultations when prescription charges disappear in April.

They blame politicians for their increased workload, saying patients will try to get all their medications on GP scrips rather than pay for them elsewhere.

‘We understand that the cut-off point for patients choosing to come to the GP rather than buy their own medicines is around £3,' said GPC Wales negotiator Dr Ian Millington.

The current prescription charge will be scrapped on 1 April. GPs are blaming politicians facing elections in May for the timing.

Swansea GP Dr Neil Upton said: ‘One can fear that we'll be back to prescribing paracetamol and cotton wool. The burden of refusal will fall on the GP and not on the politicians.

‘There are no incentives in the system not to overspend our drugs budget and this year will be the first time that we have done so.'

Plans at one practice to introduce a recurring prescriptions scheme to allow patients to obtain prescriptions for trivial items without a medicines review have failed after defence unions gave conflicting advice.

South West Wales GP Dr Roger Burns said one defence union said they could not introduce such a scheme while another said they could with appropriate protocols in place.

Dr Stephanie Bowen, director of education and communications at the Medical Protection Society, said if practices were intending to set up the mechanism of recurring prescriptions they should do so with a protocol that demonstrates that they have looked at the safety issues.

The Welsh Assembly estimates the extra drugs bill for 2007/8 will amount to £29.5 million. It says statistics show an increased workload is not an issue. A spokesman said that since the cost of prescriptions was frozen at £6 in 2001 and then reduced from 2004, there was no evidence of an increase in the number of English residents registering with a Welsh GP to access cheaper prescriptions.

Prescriptions will calculate to cost £6.65 in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

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