28-day scrip limits 'putting patients at risk'

Patients cannot afford extra prescription charges incurred by limits on supplies imposed by PCTs.

Twenty-eight day time limits on GP prescriptions imposed by PCTs could mean that patients struggle to obtain vital medication, experts warn.

In May, as part of an initiative to cut drug waste, Leicester City PCT issued new guidelines to GPs, recommending they issue prescriptions for no more than 28 days' supply where possible.

In Worcestershire, guidelines in place 'strongly recommend' 28-day prescriptions 'to ensure equity across the PCT and to avoid waste'.

Patients who had received prescriptions for two or three months' supply of medicines are now being given 28-day prescriptions, Leicester Patients Group chairman Zuffar Haq told GP.

Patients thus pay the £7.10 prescription charge two or three times for the same amount of medicine. Mr Haq said some patients had not collected medicines because they could not afford the charges.

Many patients faced increased prescription costs without being prescribed enough medicines to justify buying a prepayment certificate, he added.

A spokeswoman for Asthma UK said patients were concerned about running out of medicine and repeated visits to order and collect prescriptions.

Ruth French, head of careline and advocacy services at Diabetes UK, warned that people travelling for longer than 28 days could be unable to obtain sufficient supplies of medicine.

However, Dr Mike Knapton, a Cambridgeshire GP and associate medical director of the British Heart Foundation, said that medicines wastage was a legitimate concern and measures such as repeat dispensing could reduce inconvenience.

Leicester City PCT said it recommended 28-day prescribing, but doctors should be flexible. Worcester PCT's guidelines say patients should be able to receive repeat prescriptions without compromising safety.

tom.moberly@haymarket.com

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