Anger over surgery changes

GP surgeries in Suffolk could be forced to close if a controversial law change gets the go ahead, it emerged today.

GP surgeries in Suffolk could be forced to close if a controversial law change gets the go ahead, it emerged today.

Doctors have warned that patients could face long journeys to pick up medicines if GPs are banned from dispensing prescriptions in rural areas.

Currently patients who live more than a mile from a pharmacy can ask their doctor to give them their drugs.

However the Department of Health is currently considering changing the rules, which could see only pharmacies allowed to hand over medicines, even in rural areas.

The change would affect 265 GPs in Suffolk that provide a dispensing service to 158,985 patients.

Dr Paul Thomas of The Gipping Valley Practice in Barham said he would be forced to close his practice if the changes went through and he lost the extra revenue he received from dispensing drugs.

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He said: “I'm extremely concerned. What will happen in my case will be devastating and the practice will not be able to survive.

“One of the things that concerns me most is that pharmacists are no longer working in little shops, it takes place in supermarkets which are taking extra resources and funding from small NHS surgeries.”

Dr Thomas's fears were echoed by the Suffolk Local Medical Committee (LMC) which represents GPs.

Its chairwoman, Dr Claire Giles, has written to all the county's MPs urging them to contact the Department of Health about the issue before the consultation into the proposals ends on November 20.

She wrote: “The adoption of any of the alternative options would mean that many patients throughout the county could lose the dispensing services of their doctor and may have to travel many miles to a pharmacy to obtain their medicines.

“The LMC believes that GPs in rural areas provide an essential service by dispensing for their patients and that, for many patients suffering from chronic conditions, providing the medical service as well as the dispensing service delivers a comprehensive, accessible and safe system of overall care.

“Dispensing doctors use the income produced from dispensing to enhance their overall service to patients and the facilities they can offer in their surgeries.”

Are you worried your GP surgery could be forced to close? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich IP4 1AN or e-mail