Patients are opposed to plans to restrict practices from dispensing, according to a poll conducted by the Dispensing Doctors' Association (DDA).
The DDA surveyed more than 6,000 patients who are registered with a dispensing practice in England. The results show that 95% of these patients said they would find it difficult or inconvenient if their surgery stopped dispensing.
The DDA says the findings highlight the depth of opposition to any reduction in services that would arise if new government proposals to limit GP dispensing in certain areas are taken forward.
The survey findings were published as the DDA last week submitted its response to the government's consultation on the pharmacy white paper, which includes a number of options to reform the existing rules that govern dispensing by doctors.
Currently, patients who live more than a mile from a chemist can choose to have their medicines dispensed by their GP, removing the need for an additional journey where rural factors (such as geography and patient mobility) demand a tailored service to deliver a high level of patient care.
The DDA points out that these arrangements have been in place for almost a century, "with a proven track record of safety, efficacy and convenience".
The DDA is urging the government to support the "no change" option, since all other options would herald an end to dispensing by GPs in all but the most remote rural areas.
It says the proposals would destablise more than 700 GP practices in England, resulting in job losses and service cutbacks, and that millions of patients would lose the choice as to where they can collect their prescription medicines, while access to essential services such as branch surgeries and home visits would be reduced.
David Baker, Chief Executive of the DDA, said:"I welcome these findings, which reflect the high level of support for GP dispensing among our patients. All patients deserve a health service that is safe and efficient, but also convenient and stress-free.
"The impact of proposed changes is at stark odds with the government's laudable ambition to personalise health service and improve choice and access to primary care. We urge the government to take seriously the findings presented."
So far tens of thousands of dispensing patients have responded to the consultation to call for the protection of GP dispensing and more than 50 cross-party MPs have taken action in support of the status quo.
Your comments (terms and conditions apply):
"This is yet another stab at GP practices by a government determined to break the hold GPs have over primary care. I'm not sure though that they originally realised the magnitude of this change that was tucked away at the back of the White Paper. Patients certainly knew nothing about it until GPs broadcast the proposals. Our patients have certainly shown their support for maintaining the status quo." - Name and address supplied