GPs say cancer patients will suffer after DoH blunder on free scrips

GPs have criticised public health minister Dawn Primarolo for urging England's 150,000 cancer patients to seek appointments with practices 'this week' to discuss free scrips.

Dawn Primarolo
Dawn Primarolo

Ms Primarolo said: ‘I would urge patients to make an appointment with their GP this week to talk about applying for their exemption certificate.’

An Avon LMC statement reads: ‘While supporting the much-needed move to relieve the financial burden of charges from these patients, GPs have been given no information from Ms Primarolo’s department about how they should implement the planned change.

‘There is huge concern from GPs that the announcement falsely raises patient expectations. GPs believe it is a complete waste of cancer sufferers’ time and energy to urge them to see their GP this week, when the DoH has not advised GPs of the rules or provided the forms necessary to allow cancer sufferers to be exempt from prescription charges.’

Dr Simon Bradley, Avon LMC chairman, said: ‘It is absolutely typical of this government to seek to grab headlines with popular policy without having put in place the processes necessary to support patient care. It raises expectation and then disappoints patients leaving the patient’s family doctor to pick up the pieces.’

A Worcestershire LMC statement welcomes the policy but describes the implementation as ‘bizarre’.

It continues: ‘GPs have not been given detailed information from the DoH how they should implement these changes. Ms Primarolo’s comments have been widely reported and she stated: ‘I would urge patients to make an appointment with their GP this week to talk about applying for their exemption certificate’.  Worcestershire LMC is deeply concerned at this announcement.  It will falsely raise patients’ expectations; it will waste GP appointments at a time when practices are extremely busy. 

‘This seems like government spin. It is grabbing the headlines for a popular policy without having put in place procedures necessary to support patient care. Nobody has had detailed guidance on which patients are eligible and the forms for this process have not been delivered to practices.

‘We would strongly advise any patient considering applying for this to ask their practice first if the forms and appropriate paperwork have arrived, otherwise they are likely to have a wasted journey.

‘We support the policy but deplore the way this has been handled.’

Dr Grant Ingrams, GPC West Midalnds secretary, said: 'We fully support this long-needed move to relieve the financial burden of charges from patients with cancer, but GPs have been kept in the dark by Ms Primarolo's department about the detail of the planned change.

'Telling patients suffering from cancer to struggle to our surgeries when GPs do not have any information or the forms to complete is disgraceful and underlines that this government places a good 'sounbite' over patients' needs, even those with serious conditions like cancer.

'Once we have the forms, we are likely to be able to complete them from the records we already have, and very few patients will need to make an appointment. I would urge anyone who believes they may be eligible just to contact their surgery with their details.'

  • Was Ms Primarolo wrong to urge cancer patients to visit GPs ‘this week’?

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