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The ability of rural GPs to dispense medicines to their patients is at risk in a government drive to ôreform" current arrangements. That would mean serious problems for vulnerable people in rural areas, according to Mid Worcestershire MP Peter Luff.

Peter is urging patients who depend on the dispensaries in surgeries to respond to the current Department of Health consultation.

Peter met Broadway doctor Thomas Bloch last week to discuss the implications of the government's plans. After the meeting, Peter said,

"We agreed that there is absolutely no need to change the current arrangements which offer choice and convenience to rural patients, especially the disabled and elderly.

"At present, if a patient lives more than a mile from a pharmacy, the GP can dispense their medicine. This saves patients a second journey to a pharmacy - and where the doctor is making a home visit, which is probably more common in rural areas, it can save the ill patient from making any journey at all, as the GP can dispense from the stock he carries with him.

"If the government succeeds in its aim, it will mean massive inconvenience for patients, particularly the elderly and disabled. It also risks undermining the finances of many surgeries and that could mean the loss of yet another vital service for communities.

"Of course I support local pharmacies too - but these arrangements will drive patients not to smaller independent pharmacies, but into the arms of the big chains and the supermarkets."

"The consultation document offers four possible options - but the only one that is acceptable to me is the first - no change. Indeed, there is a case for some liberalisation of the rules to make GP dispensing easier, but it is most unlikely the government will even consider that."

Peter Luff is joining forces with Dr Thomas Bloch in urging patients to respond to the consultation - but they have concerns about the wording of the "tick-box" response document, so they suggest patients who benefit from GP dispensing should send their own letter to the Department, by Thursday 20th November, at this address:

Gillian Farnfield, Department of health, Medicines and Pharmacy Industry group, Area 453D, Skipton House, 80 London Road, London, SE1 6LH

Alternatively, they can e-mail responses to


Photograph shows Peter Luff with Dr Thomas Bloch outside the Barn Close Surgery Broadway after their meeting.

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