Fylde and Wyre CCG announced on October 31 that it will stop pharmacies from ordering repeat prescriptions for most patients, in a bid to save an estimated £1.6 million in waste medicines.
Six-branch chain O’Brien’s in Fleetwood and Fylde, Lancashire told C+D last week (November 15) it will have to consider making two members of staff redundant when the new prescribing policy comes into effect in local GP surgeries, unless another role can be found for them.
The staff who manage the service have full-time roles, dealing with 3,000-4,000 patients a month, superintendent pharmacist Lisa Cottam said. But the combined impact of halting repeat prescription ordering alongside the funding cuts in England means “we just can’t afford to keep these staff”, she said.
Announcing the policy change last month, the CCG said it had already been implemented in two GP practices, with more to come on board “in the coming weeks”.
Patients who a pharmacy feels “would struggle to cope with the change will be exempt”, the CCG said.
“Practices will work with any particularly vulnerable patients and their families to ensure they are not negatively affected by the changes,” it added.
Guidance causing “confusion”
Ms Cottam said the lack of clear guidance on the definition of a “vulnerable” patient is “creating confusion for pharmacy staff and the patients”.
Some patients who had been told they could no longer receive repeat prescriptions from their pharmacy have requested MediPack trays instead – moving onto another free service for which the pharmacies are already “maxed-out on capacity”, Ms Cottam said.
She is also concerned that when patients try to order medicines from GP surgery reception staff, they “won't necessarily have the same training” on identifying patient’s medicines needs as pharmacy staff, she said.
“This level of support for these patients will need to come from somewhere, or it will burden other aspects of the NHS services,” she said.
Practice staff “concerned”
Ms Cottam said a manager at a local GP practice where the change had not yet happened was “quite concerned about the additional workload”.
They were “already stretched” and “not getting any additional funding”, she said. “They’ve been quite happy with us offering the service”.
CCG aims to improve patient safety
As part of the CCG’s announcement last month, its clinical lead Dr Jacky Panesar said: “We have seen that when patients order their own prescriptions, this is safer and reduces waste.” She claimed that the prescribing policy change “will make sure more and more people understand their medication”.
Waste costs the NHS “hundreds of millions of pounds every year” through “over-ordering, stockpiling and unused medicines”, Dr Panesar added.