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Trust us with antibiotics supply

The NPA’s PGD scheme is a great idea that improves the patient experience, writes Peter Dawson. But trust the Department of Health to throw a spanner in the works

In response to the excellent initiative by the NPA and Day Lewis in introducing their patient group directions (PGDs), the Department of Health (DH) and our chief pharmaceutical officer Keith Ridge are "concerned that patient safety is not compromised by getting medicines from other sources".

The PGDs were written independently by a pharmacist, medic and nurse working for an independent medical authority, with input from the NPA, which has many years' experience of PGD implementation.

Sensible issues have been raised and addressed. The PGDs are designed to minimise the overuse of antibiotics, which is not exactly a feature of GP prescribing. The concerns of the British Medical Association on inhalers - "It's about being able to access appropriate medical advice, rather than just access to a reliever" - should be alleviated by the fact that the PGDs are about emergency supply, and pharmacists can and do give appropriate advice.

"Putting patients first" is a welcome and long overdue development by the DH - those of us in community pharmacy have been doing it for considerably longer - and two key features of this development have been patient choice and access.

Patients have been deprived of an improved service, GP self-interest has been protected and a welcome new revenue stream for pharmacy has been damned

So one might imagine that an innovative development which, through enabling choice and promoting access, clearly improves the patient experience, would be lauded by the chief pharmaceutical officer and his cohorts in the DH. And in our brave new world of clinical commissioning, albeit by GPs, the response by Day Lewis to the call for " any suitable provider", or "from other sources" as the DH strangely put it, would be greeted with open arms.

By all means look at the protocols, but do the DH and the chief pharmaceutical officer really believe that advice such as "particular caution should be exercised in the use of antibiotics" or that "strategies to combat increasing antibiotic resistance should not be put at risk" is necessary for a multidisciplinary group of health professionals experienced in the development of PGDs?

The DH intervention has resulted in the withdrawal of three safe and effective PGDs. Patients have been deprived of an improved service, GP self-interest has been protected and a welcome new revenue stream for pharmacy has been damned.

And as for the GPhC - whose raison d'être is to protect and support the patient - surely it should be supporting a service that improves the patient experience of healthcare, one which  has already generated positive feedback? Their silence is speaking volumes.

Now, I don't know anyone at Day Lewis, but I wish them well in their battle. There are powerful forces opposing them, and it is disappointing that our chief pharmaceutical officer would seem to be in that camp.

Peter Dawson was recently described by a student as a pharmacist who must have seen a lot of changes. He has. Currently he is a locum pharmacist and Guardian and C+D columnist. He can also be found here or Tweeting at @peterdawson19.

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