A motion supporting dispensing by doctors was passed unanimously at the Local Medical Committee (LMC) Conference on Friday (13 June).
The motion called on the General Practitioners' Committee (GPC) to "fight with the utmost vigour" government proposals contained within the Pharmacy White Paper to change "control of entry" rules for dispensing doctors.
Conference speakers expressed concern that these reforms could effectively put an end to dispensing by doctors in all but the most rural areas, and jeopardise services provided by the 5,872 GPs' who currently dispense medicines across the country.
"The white paper could mean that within two to three years, there will no dispensing practices left," Dr David Baker, Chief Executive of the Dispensing Doctors' Association (DDA), warned delegates. "The threat is severe, real and imminent," he said.
The motion was presented by Dr Christopher Browning on behalf of Suffolk LMC. Dr Browning urged the government to "level up, not level down" and enable more practices to dispense rather than ending the service just because it was not available at all practices.
The DDA estimates that, if implemented, the proposals could result in widespread redundancies for between 5,000 and 7,000 dispensing staff, and a reduction in branch surgeries and other rural primary care services.
"We are delighted at the unparalleled support shown for doctor dispensing by the whole conference," said Dr Baker.
"The DDA hopes the Department of Health will reconsider their proposals, which will, if enacted unchanged, undoubtedly reduce patients' access to rural medical services through closures of branch surgeries and loss of medical and ancillary staff.
"When choice is considered paramount throughout the NHS, we cannot understand why patients cannot be permitted to choose where, and by whom, their prescription is dispensed."
Your comments: (Terms and conditions apply)
"We must fight to keep on dispensing we dispense to over 4,000 patients and they all love the service we provide - 'it's what the patients want'" – Sue Challinger, Kent
"Good for you David!!!! Choice is the key" – Paul Thomas, Suffolk
"I agree with the motion. I am the manager of a dispensing practice; patients who are newly registered often comment on how convenient it is to be able to get acute medication there and then when they are not feeling well. It is a really good service for patients; if there was a vote I am sure patients would vote for dispensing in all GP surgeries" – Name withheld, Essex
"This was an important vote to support primary care services in England. If these services are destroyed there will be damage to general practice across the UK" – I McLean, Galloway