Free TVs may breach GMC practice rules

GPs are concerned that practice deals with the Life Channel, a TV company providing health and community information on waiting room televisions, could contravene the GMC's Good Medical Practice guidelines.

The Life Channel, which installs TV monitors without charge in surgeries, is planning to treble its GP practice outlets this year.

Last month prime minister Tony Blair unveiled its first screen in a school at Ferryhill Business and Enterprise College in his Sedgefield constituency in County Durham.

The channel is funded by national advertising, PCTs’ health promotion campaigns and link with local pharmacies. It shows a mix of programmes including medical campaigns.

Jeremy Earley, commercial director of the Life Channel, said that frequently only one local pharmacy signs up to have its details on screen.

But Dr James Gilgrass, chief executive of Surrey and Sussex LMCs, said if the screen advertised only one pharmacy it could contravene GMC good practice guidance on patient choice.

Chris Heap, Life Channel’s commercial manager, confirmed that the company ‘tries to offer a degree of exclusivity to pharmacists’ but said that some surgeries have sign-up from more than one pharmacy. Contracts with GPs’ surgeries are for 24 months.

Tom Stevenson, communications lead for Hammersmith and Fulham PCT, which has a Life Channel screen in its Parsons Green walk-in centre, said: ‘I would certainly recommend that exclusivity of pharmacy is not appropriate.’

The Life Channel can access GPs’ surgeries by striking a deal with their PCT. The PCT sanctions the company accessing surgeries and if it gets sign-up from around three quarters agrees to buy around four health promotion campaigns. A thousand practices have already signed up.

The GMC said that patients should be free to choose from which pharmacy to have their prescribed medicines dispensed.

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