Dispensing doctors are general practitioners (GPs) who provide a dispensing service to their patients where access to a community pharmacy is poor. Dispensing practices are therefore a feature of rural communities. There are few dispensing practices in Lancashire but a significant number in Cumbria. Dispensing doctors are allowed to dispense the medicines they prescribe for these patients.
Only certain patients are eligible to receive dispensing services from a dispensing doctor. There are very strict regulations that govern these situations in that eligible patients must live in a designated rural area and live more than a mile from the nearest pharmacy.
The relevant regulations for England are: The National Health Service (Pharmaceutical and Local Pharmaceutical Services) Regulations 2013.
The LMC is involved with the NHS England Area Team in conducting Pharmaceutical Needs Assessments. Part of this process is to designate those areas that fall under the heading of “rural areas” and therefore can support dispensing practices.
Dispensary standards for doctors in England and Wales are set out in the Dispensary Services Quality Scheme (DSQS) which was agreed by the NHS, the General Practitioners’ Committee and the Dispensing Doctors’ Association, and introduced in 2006/07. The DSQS is a quality framework, which has patient safety at its centre and it has been widely adopted by dispensing practices.
The Dispensing Doctors’ Association (DDA) is the body that represents the interests of dispensing doctors and has a wealth of expertise and knowledge on the subject The 2012 DDA publication: Dispensing Guidance: Quality in Practice provides a comprehensive overview of the regulations and good practice to be adopted by GP dispensaries. The Guidance is available online from their website.