More than 5,400 practice staff – including 109 practice managers – could lose their jobs if government plans to change the control of entry rules for dispensing practices go ahead, according to the Dispensing Doctors' Association (DDA).
According to a DDA workforce survey of dispensing practices, 5,465 members of staff at dispensing practices across England would be in danger of losing their jobs if white paper proposals, published in April, to restrict the number of such practices are enacted.
The DDA surveyed more than 100 dispensing practices, which dispense to 388,125 patients and employ 573 dispensing staff – of which 469 would be at risk of redundancy, they survey suggested.
The DDA estimated the national figures by using its survey results as representational of the situation across England. It calculates that, in addition to 4,436 dispensing staff and 109 practice managers, 114 reception staff, 170 nurses, 376 doctors and 369 support staff would be in danger of losing their jobs.
Dr David Baker, DDA Chief Executive, described the findings as "very worrying indeed."
He said: "We are happy that respondents are representative of dispensing practices generally since if their total dispensing list were extrapolated in the same way as the redundancy figures it would equate to a total dispensing list size of 3.67 million patients, compared to the actual figure of 3.51 million, a disparity of only 4.56%.
"A similar disparity (4.57%) exists between the average English dispensing list size and the list size of respondents," he added.
Dr Baker also said the DDA had been contacted by a GP, who has been considering becoming a partner in a dispensing practice, was having "cold feet" over concerns of being "last in first out" if dispensing by doctors ceased.
"The other recruitment issue is where a practice has opened a pharmacy and the subsequent high cost for new partners to the medical practice buying a share of the pharmacy business," Dr Baker said.
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"We would be one of the 20% or so rural practices that might become so-called winners under the change. The prospect of us then becoming an attractive target for commercial pharmacies rears its ugly head and we have to assess if we can survive without the dispensary. We have therefore to take the unwelcome decision to apply to become a pharmacy ourselves. This, combined with the prospect of a new 'GP-led Health Centre' nearby, leads us to wonder what future there is for the whole surgery" – Name and address withheld
"I think the government is making a big mistake, the white paper is removing a valuable service to patients. The majority of our patients find dispensing an assett. This government is always talking about patient choice – what choice will they have once the white paper is implemented? At the moment I am not worried that jobs will be at risk because all of our dispensers are also receptionists, I am the practice manager but I do not manage the dispensing side of the practice" – Anna Richardson, Essex
"I would no longer be able to run the number of nurse clinics that I do and the fulltime salaried GP post would go. There would be six reduncancies of experienced qualified staff" – Alison Shelton, Devon