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GPs warn of increased workload

8th April 2008

An expert has warned that GPs will face more work in connection with a government scheme to give pharmacists the power to write prescriptions for "minor" illness.

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Professor Steve Field, Chairman of the Royal College of General Practitioners, stated that it was important to remember "that pharmacists are not doctors" and the new plan would not necessarily save time for GPs.

"By involving pharmacists in preventative healthcare and screening, GPs will actually be busier as we will be identifying more patients who might otherwise slip through the net," explained Professor Field.

The White Paper entitled 'Pharmacy in England: Building on Strengths, Delivering the Future' was published by the Department of Health on 3 April this year.

The document set out plans to show that pharmacists will be able to issue prescriptions. The government is hopeful that this will encourage patients to visit their pharmacist rather than their GP. It has estimated that this equates to a saving of one hour per day, or 57 million doctors' appointments per year.

Professor Field said that pharmacists needed to make money and it was important to ensure that "profit does not pollute the conversation and that there is no conflict of interest between pharmacists giving advice and their selling particular types of medication."

He added that many patients benefited from their pharmacists' knowledge. However he emphasised that their expertise and relationships with patients should be furthered in connection with local GPs, not "instead of" doctors' appointments.




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