General practitioner Scotland

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GP practices under threat in rural areas

Rural areas could be left without a GP practice unless rules governing pharmacy set-ups are changed urgently, doctors have warned.

The viability of dispensing practices is being threatened because they lose their dispensing income when a community pharmacy opens in the area, the BMA Scottish local medical committees conference heard.

Ayrshire GP Hal Maxwell said the current pharmacy applications should be reconsidered as a matter of urgency. The Scottish government should take the views of local patients into greater account, he added.

He said: ‘The regulations favour the pharmacist; there’s consultation, but the health boards don’t recognise the patients’ voice. We’re heading to the point where rural areas can have a GP or a pharmacist, but not both. Dispensing practices are cheap, efficient and functional, but that doesn’t seem to matter.’

Lanarkshire GP Robert Flowerdew said that in Carstairs village, where a new pharmacy has been open for several months, the local GP practice was ‘in a state of collapse’.

‘If it goes, will the pharmacy be viable?’ he added.

Forth Valley GP — and BMA Scottish council chair — Brian Keighley said that the current regulations were ‘loosely worded’ and that practices were being destabilised.

‘It’s time for one part of the Scottish government to talk to the other part,’ he added.