Page last updated at 05:16 GMT, Wednesday, 16 September 2009 06:16 UK

Row over who dispenses medicines

By Eleanor Bradford
BBC Scotland Health Correspondent

Drugs being dispensed
Pharmacists say they can offer better service than dispensing doctors

A row has broken out between pharmacists and family doctors over who should dispense drugs in Scotland's rural villages.

Pharmacists said GPs are campaigning against the opening of new pharmacies in order to protect lucrative contracts to dispense drugs themselves.

GPs say extra payments for dispensing drugs support local services.

The row may to come to a head when Leuchars residents hold a meeting about a plan to open a pharmacy in the town.

Dr Bryan Johnston runs two dispensaries from his practices in Leuchars and the nearby village of Balmullo, for which he receives payments from the local health board.

He said these payments are reinvested in the practice to provide a better service for patients.

Dr Johnston told BBC Scotland: "The income from dispensing is roughly half of the total income the practice receives. If a pharmacist opens in the area and we lose that income we'd have to downsize considerably, losing a doctor and possibly half our staff."

'Save our surgery'

But the pharmacist, who has been granted a licence to start dispensing within Leuchars post office, said it meant the future of the post office would be more secure, and also that patients would get a better service.

James Semple said: "A pharmacist provides a second clinical check on a GP's prescription. On top of that pharmacists are now providing a service which is the envy of the world, including a minor ailments service, emergency contraception and nicotine replacement therapy."

But local people have rallied behind Dr Johnston by starting a "save our surgery" campaign.

Mr Semple said the experience of other villages suggested surgeries were not badly affected when a pharmacy opens.

He said Kilmaurs in Ayrshire was an example of a village where doctors predicted the surgery would close if a pharmacy opened, but that that had not happened.

Residents of Leuchars and the surrounding area will make their feelings known on the issue at a public meeting on Wednesday evening, although Mr Semple has indicated he will not be attending.

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