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Last Updated: Sunday, 24 October, 2004, 05:09 GMT 06:09 UK
Pharmacists 'to offer medical care'
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Patients will be able get a year's worth of prescriptions from their GP
Pharmacists in England and Wales could offer some health services currently provided by GPs, under a new deal agreed with the government.

These would include supplying repeat prescriptions, offering basic health advice and blood pressure checks.

Chemists would be paid by the NHS according to the range and quality of services they provided.

Pharmacists now have to vote on whether to accept the new contract, which would come into force next April.

New era

The document has been drawn up after two years of talks between the Department of Health and pharmacists' representatives.

Speaking ahead of a meeting of the all-party parliamentary pharmacy group, health minister Rosie Winterton, said: "This new contract represents the beginning of a new era for pharmacy in the community, in which everyone will benefit.

"Until now, pharmacists have been an untapped resource. I want to see them more integrated with the NHS family."

Under the new contract, patients will be able get up to a year's worth of prescriptions from their GP at a time.

This will be dispensed at intervals agreed between the doctor and pharmacist.

According to Ms Winterton, this will reduce GP workloads and relieve patients with chronic conditions from having to repeatedly visit their surgery.

The chairman of the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee, Barry Andrews, said: "I am pleased that we have been able to reach agreement with the government on proposals for a new pharmacy contract that will provide better services for patients, better use of the skills of pharmacists, and a more secure future for community pharmacy contractors."

And Chris Town, the NHS Confederation's pharmacy spokesman, said the deal would make pharmacies an "integral" part of local primary care services.

Developing Patient Partnership (DPP), a charity which aims to patients make the most of health services, welcomed the contract, saying it would benefit patients.

Dr David Wrigley said: "The DPP is fully supportive of an increased role for pharmacists working alongside other health professional in the helping patients to manage their health.

"This has enormous potential for offering patients more accessible information, advice and services on the high street."

Pharmacy contractors will be balloted on the contract next month and the results will be known at the end of November.


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How the system will work



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