GPs and community pharmacists should not allow financial interests to influence the advice they give patients about where to access services, their respective regulators have told them.
The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC), General Medical Council and the Pharmaceutical Society of Northern Ireland made a joint statement on 13 November 2015, highlighting the provision of influenza vaccination services and the dispensing of prescriptions.
The reminder comes as community pharmacists in England are able to offer flu vaccination as an advanced service for the first time under their national contract following an agreement reached in July 2015.
The organisations say they issued the statement following reports that some patients have been “inappropriately influenced” by health professionals about where they should have their flu vaccination and where they should have their prescriptions dispensed.
The statement advises pharmacists and GPs about their professional priorities and reminds them that patient care should be their main concern. It says they should not allow financial or other commercial interest to influence how they treat or refer patients or commission services. Health professionals should also be open and honest with patients about any potential conflicts of interest.
Rob Darracott, chief executive of Pharmacy Voice, which represents several community pharmacy organisations, welcomes the statement. “We particularly welcome the fact that the statement emphasises that there is a clear process whereby concerns can be referred to the regulators and may result in an investigation if it is deemed that their standards may not have been met by individual health professionals,” he says.
The Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) also supports the statement. “We hope that the minority of pharmacists and medical practitioners who have sought to inappropriately influence patient choice will now remedy their practices and ensure that patients can exercise their own free choice,” says Steve Lutener, the PSNC’s director of regulation and support.
The statement was released the day after the Royal College of GPs (RCGP) said it was “alarmed” at the fall in the number of people visiting surgeries to have their seasonal flu vaccination. Compared with the same period last year, more than 6% fewer flu vaccinations have been given by GPs, says the RCGP.