Letter: Bitter pills for pharmacists

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Sir: In his letter of 31 May, T. P. Astill repeats often-heard arguments and questionable statistics about the alleged iniquities of doctor dispensing. What he does not say is that dispensing income keeps many small village general practices viable.

In many of these settings, a village pharmacy would not make a living from the small population served and the practice could not maintain a surgery without the dispensing income. He also fails to mention that dispensing doctors are under just as much pressure to reduce their prescribing costs as non-dispensing colleagues. Their prescribing costs are equally closely monitored by the Prescription Pricing Authority and Family Health Services Authority medical advisors.

It is sad that in an argument which should be about what is best for patients the issue has become obscured by interprofessional rivalry about who earns the money for dispensing. A significant omission from Mr Astill's letter is: what do patients prefer, dispensing from the surgery or from the pharmacy? If patients were asked, I am sure all dispensing doctors could live with the answer, but perhaps this pill would be too bitter for Mr Astill and his colleagues to swallow.

Yours sincerely,


Truro, Cornwall

31 May