A DoH consultation on dis-pensing practices represents progress - because only three of the four options it proposes pose a threat, according to the chief executive of the Dispensing Doctors Association (DDA).
'At least we're back to no change being an option,' Dr David Baker said. The paper stresses that this is a true consultation rather than a tick-box exercise, he noted. But he added: 'Virtually nowhere is patient choice mentioned.'
The DDA has backed option one, which would see no change from the current rules on dispensing.
Dr Jeremy Phipps, a dispensing GP in Lincolnshire, said the other three options would all mean 'nearly every doctor would lose the right to dispense'.
'It would have a devastating effect on the income we have to provide services,' he said.
His practice would struggle to recruit new doctors and would be forced to close a branch surgery and some extra clinics if it could not dispense.
Dr Baker said that option three, which would bar doctors from dispensing if there was a pharmacy nearby, would alert pharmacists to captive markets. 'Any pharmacist with an ounce of business sense will move,' he said.
Practices that survived the change would likely be picked off over time, he added.
Option four, which lays out distance criteria for two local pharmacies, was dismissed by Dr Baker as 'even more Byzan-tine than the current rules'.
Option two would allow PCTs to determine dispensing areas. This 'could be looked at', said Dr Baker.
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