The chancellor Gordon Brown has called for more electronic prescriptions to be issued in the NHS, as part of his campaign to be the next leader of the Labour Party.

Brown, the favourite to win the leadership contest, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Saturday that there needed to be “more electronic prescriptions so people can get their prescriptions more easily.”

He was on safe ground as good progress with the Electronic Prescription Service means that the streamlining of prescription transmission between GPs and community pharmacists is already well under way.

The chancellor was speaking ahead of a visit to the Sunlight Community Centre in Gillingham, Kent where he pledged to make improving the NHS an "immediate priority".

He said improving access to healthcare outside normal working hours would be “serving the needs of the people”. As well as pushing for electronic prescriptions, he also called for more walk-in centres, better out-of-hours access to GPs, and pharmacies carrying out basic procedures like blood pressure tests, but offered no firm commitments.

The British Medical Association has expressed concerns over the proposal that primary care trusts should seek to offer more out-of-hours care through more GPs and/or walk-in centres.

Dr Hamish Meldrum, chairman of the BMA’s General Practitioners Committee said: "We are always open to discussions and I will be writing to Gordon Brown about his reported statements on access to general practice. I will be reminding him of the reasons his government agreed the new contract. It was to address the severe workforce shortage and low morale among GPs. Recruitment is improving but we still have a long way to go. There has not been a significant increase in whole-time GPs since the new contract, although we do have more part-time GPs.

“Longer opening hours is a workforce issue. Family doctors have already pulled out all the stops to deliver top quality services to patients under the new contract, but their work is intensive and much more complex than in the past as more procedures previously done in hospitals transfer to GP surgeries. There would have to be a significant increase in the number of GPs, practice nurses, and all the other practice staff, to cover longer opening times, along with all the back-up diagnostic services needed to make general practice work efficiently.”

Brown spoke out on health the day after he announced officially his intention to stand for the Labour Party leader position.

In his leadership speech he said: “With new medical technology, people can live healthier and longer and they want an NHS personal to their needs that earns the trust of patients and staff…My priority for the coming months will be the NHS. In advance of the spending review in the autumn, I will meet with those on the front line of the NHS, patients and staff, as we shape the next stages of our plans for our health service.”

Brown said his overall vision for the BNHS is to build it up and make it ‘a great British institution’ and ‘the envy of the world’.

Nominations for both the leadership and deputy leadership contests of the Labour Party will open at 14:30 today, and will close at 12:30 on Thursday.


Gordon Brown for Britain