handsNovember 18 2015

The pharmacy and medical regulators have reminded health professionals that they should support patients to make informed decisions about treatments and care options.

A joint statement from the General Pharmaceutical Council, the General Medical Council and the Pharmaceutical Society of Northern Ireland, has been issued “in response to recent claims that patients and the public have been inappropriately influenced by health professionals when making decisions about where to access services such as flu vaccinations or dispensing of prescriptions.”

Coverage in the health press has related concerns that the introduction of the pharmacy flu vaccination service into the national pharmacy contract in England in September has led to unprofessional behaviour: GPs are alleged to have criticised pharmacists for ‘poaching’ their patients for the vaccine, while pharmacist have alleged that GPs have been trying to steer patients away from the pharmacy service.

In the joint statement, the regulators say: “Doctors and pharmacy professionals must work in partnership with patients, with each other, and as part of a wider multi-disciplinary team to provide high quality care to patients. Care of patients must always be the first priority and access to services such as flu vaccinations should not be affected by commercial interests. Pharmacy professionals and doctors must support informed decision making by patients.”

The regulators also say that anyone who has a specific concern should contact NHS England or the appropriate health board in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland. “Evidence of inappropriate payments or attempts to deceive patients would raise questions about the professionalism of doctors and pharmacists, and could result in investigations by the GMC, GPhC and the Pharmaceutical Society NI.”

Rob Darracott, chief executive of Pharmacy Voice, welcomed the joint intervention. “The statement makes clear that pharmacy professionals and doctors have a duty to support informed decision making by patients and ensure that they do not inappropriately influence patients’ choices,” he said.

“We particularly welcome the fact that the statement emphasises that there is a clear process whereby concerns can be referred to the regulators and may result in an investigation if it is deemed that their standards may not have been met by individual health professionals. Pharmacy Voice has been collecting examples of poor practice and misleading information that undermine choice and seem to lead to the direction of prescriptions to particular pharmacies.

To support our members, we have been engaging with stakeholders including GPhC and NHS England to reiterate how damaging this can be both for patients and for pharmacy contractors. It is gratifying to see that this statement begins to address some of our concerns. We will continue to ask key stakeholders to work with us to stop this activity and protect the interests of patients and the NHS.”

Links:

GPhC/GMC/PSNI statement

Pharmacy Voice response