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Wirral CCG looks to scrap another pharmacy service

The pharmacy repeat prescription service is the latest scheme at risk in Wirral after its minor ailments and homeopathy schemes were scrapped last year.

Results of a pilot scheme to encourage patients to order their prescriptions direct from their GP practice are "currently being evaluated", Wirral clinical commissioning group (CCG) told C+D last month (April 6).

This is the latest pharmacy service to be terminated by the CCG since October 2016, after it halted funding for its minor ailments scheme and homeopathy services.

It is "best practice" to "routinely review the contracts we commission", the CCG said, but "there are currently no plans" to review any more pharmacy services.

Reducing medicines waste?

The move to scrap pharmacy repeat prescriptions aims to “increase the control by the patient for ordering their medicines, and reduce unintended medicines waste”, the CCG said.

However, whether the change would reduce waste is “unproven at the moment”, the chief executive officer of Cheshire and Wirral local pharmaceutical committee (LPC) Helen Murphy told C+D last week (May 24).

"It is difficult to know what the impact is going to be in terms of number of prescriptions dispensed."

Ms Murphy believes the CCG will implement the changes to repeat prescriptions ordering later this year.

Potential negative impact

“Our main concern really is around the potential impact on the patient groups” and the possible risk of "non-adherence", Ms Murphy said. "It's so difficult to understand what the potential negative impact will be."

The GP practices included in the pilot had the option of excluding “vulnerable patients”, the CCG said.

However, patients with long-term conditions, including asthma and diabetes, will be affected by the change, it added.

If patients suffer problems as a result of not having taken their medication effectively they might create other costs to the NHS in their use of “out-of-hours [pharmacy access] or A&E”, Ms Murphy warned.

Preference for repeat dispensing

The LPC highlighted its concerns to the Midlands and Lancashire commissioning support unit (CSU), who are rolling out the changes on behalf of the CCG, she said.

"To some extent they will listen to us," Ms Murphy added. "But I think the CCG has made a very clear decision that this is something they want to do.

"From an LPC perspective, our preference would be for suitable patients to be put on repeat dispensing rather than shifting across to ordering themselves," she said.

Do you know of any pharmacy services being decommissioned in your area?

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