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PJ Online homeThe Pharmaceutical Journal
Vol 273 No 7324 p681
6 November 2004

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· New contract
· Medicines management
· Registration examination
· Levothyroxine
· Hiccups
· Prescription pricing
· IT
· Personal control
· Control of entry
· Supermarket pharmacies
· Retention fees
· The Society
· The Journal

Letters to the Editor

Prescription pricing

Our trusted paymasters?

From Mr G. Morrow, MRPharmS

Having recently noticed a significant shortfall between the number of prescription items priced by the Prescription Pricing Authority and the number I believed I submitted, I attempted to get an explanation. The PPA was pretty clear about it: “we are right and you are wrong” was its response. So I initiated a check with the National Prescription Research Centre.

My February 2004 “bundle” had 53 pricing errors by the PPA: five incorrect items priced, six incorrect quantities priced, 17 incorrect strengths priced, one incorrect zero discount, three items missed, seven fee errors, five incorrect presentations priced and nine incorrect pack sizes priced. To my amazement the sum of these errors meant that I owed the PPA an extra £39.67.

However, the answer to my reason for the check was even more unbelievable. Methadone prescriptions accounted for the majority of the shortfall. Apparently if a methadone patient picks up more than one day’s supply at a time, even though my primary care trust has specifically requested that individual daily doses are dispensed, only one fee can be claimed. The NPRC told me that for Saturday dispensings when Sunday’s supply is also given I will get the additional fee if I imply that one was given in the morning and the other in the afternoon. I heard from another source that if I claim one is supervised and the other unsupervised, a second fee will be given. Anyway, why have 14 lines on a blue methadone prescription if only 12 should be used because we are closed on Sundays? If someone gets more than two days’ supply at once, even though each one is put in a separate container, there are no extra fees payable. Ridiculous!

The other problem area was listed as follows: colostomy — four forms, 10 items, 10 fees claimed, four given. What? According to the PPA, because the prescriptions had colostomy items on them, a professional fee is only given for the first item on each prescription. I am trying hard not to swear on paper. Can anyone explain that to me?

Still pretty upset about the situation, I checked my next four months of FP34s. Items submitted and items priced again all fell short. They were 83 down, four down, 76 down and 129 down. My methadone and colostomy prescriptions for the four down month must have just got lost. I have initiated another check for June, when the difference was 129 items. I am hopeful I shall get my £39.67 back. I stopped playing the National Lottery years ago; there was too much disappointment. It seems I am still playing a lottery, though, every month when I submit my prescriptions for pricing to the PPA.

Gary Morrow
Pharmacist Director
Morrow Pharmacy Ltd


MICHAEL KING, director of planning and corporate affairs, Prescription Pricing Authority, replies:

We are grateful for any opportunity to improve our services and are happy to look, in detail, at issues arising from any dispensing contractor. Clearly, we prefer to discuss individual accounts with contractors directly. If Mr Morrow would like to us directly, we would be happy to discuss this further.

Ultimately, we seek to remain within the 99.8 per cent net cash variance we achieve overall every month.

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