Doctors surgeries always seem to be packed, have you noticed? They are extremely busy and in some cases it can be up to a week before an appointment is arranged. Most of us in fact have a busy schedule, with work, family responsibilities and general day to day living, so having to take time out to visit the general practitioner for something that can be cleared up with just a few pills or lotion can be a real pain. And if an ailment or health issue isn’t dealt with in time the chances are it becomes something more serious, and then a visit to the doctor becomes urgent and essential.
Private patient group directions are a scheme specifically brought in to alleviate these waiting times and take some of the work load off doctors; health professionals who have undertaken the necessary training now have the ability to prescribe certain medications for a number of health issues.
It’s not like this is a fresh idea of course, for example, family planning nurses have had the facility to prescribe medication for years but it was always a grey area with the potential to be illegal. Various modifications to the Medicines Act 1968 saw the formation of private patient group directions, these are written instructions that allow trained healthcare professionals and pharmacies to assess patients and supply drugs without the need of a prescription.
At present there are 11 PGDs available, divided between vaccines and oral medicines. Altogether they consist of Erectile Dysfunction which covers Viagra, Levitra and Cialis; Malaria Prophylaxis with Malarone or Doxycycline; Stop Smoking where Champix is supplied with starter packs and full 12 week courses; Hair Loss with Propecia supplied; Influenza and optional Hepatitis B; Meningitis ACWY includes the Menveo Vaccine and ACWY Vax; Emergency Contraception Supply of Levonelle 1500; Salbutamol Inhalers; Oral Contraceptive Pills; Cystitis Treatment using Trimethoprim; and Travellers’ Diarrhoea supplying Xifaxanta antibiotic. More information is given once registration for the scheme is complete.
After registering, and paying the annual fee, the organization or pharmacist is provided with a high level of training and support necessary for delivering a secure and professional assessment and the appropriate medication. Training in each PGD for pharmacists is done online, with some practical training offered, also quick guides, leaflets for patients to read, patient completed forms to download, point of sale material, and clinical support is included.
The annual fee is very low making it affordable to private bodies, and once the forms are filled in it’s possible to start dispensing medication straight away. It’s then entirely up to the organisation what charges are applied to patients for the assessment and the medication.
There is no approval necessary from the NHS or any other medical or government bodies or NHS commissioners but there are certain criteria that have to be met. The pharmacist or organisation has to be registered and the dates recorded of when the directive started and when it expires. The annual charge is applied due to the requirement for private patient group directions to be renewed each year yearly and to cover the regular training, updates and audits. Also required are details of appropriate dosage and maximum total dosage quantity, pharmaceutical form and strength, route and frequency of administration, and a statement of the records to be kept for audit purposes.
Everyone working with patient group directions are trained and assessed regularly to make certain they have the satisfactory skill and aptitude to present a safe and competent service to patients.