The notion of doctor impartiality could be under question if plans allowing GPs to make profit by selling medicines to patients come into force, reports suggest.
An article in the Daily Telegraph claims that the government is looking to change NHS rules so that doctors can sell over-the-counter (OTC) drugs from their surgeries.
The proposals are said to be part of plans to make patients more responsible for the self-management of their condition. The Department of Health suggested that GPs should be allowed to sell medicines where there was no convenient alternative, according to the report.
But commentators say the move threatens to erode the trust previously enjoyed by health professionals if patients are unsure whether a doctor is prescribing a drug because of health or profit.
The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats have labelled the plans as dangerous, fearing the possibility of profiteering. Some doctors are already allowed to dispense prescription medicines themselves where there is no a convenient pharmacy, but NHS doctors may not sell OTC medicines.
Norman Lamb, Liberal Democrat health spokesman, told the Telegraph: "While it could provide extra convenience for patients, especially in rural areas, we must be very cautious. Any risk of profiteering must be avoided, and if they go ahead with this move, the government must ensure that any profits benefit local health services."
"A major plus for this is that of continuity. If the drug sold is ineffective, then the GP is in the best position to review and proceed accordingly. Of course, one would need checks and balances to prevent abuse" - V Henry