The cost of prescriptions The article about the Prescription Pricing Authority (21 October, page 12) concentrates upon relatively insignificant difficulties faced by NHS senior managers who, with an absence of information on GP prescribing, face budgetary control difficulties. Important though that is, think about the pharmacist who has dispensed medicines, bought at the inflated prices, and is given an estimated remuneration (to arrive when the medicines' supplier needs to be paid) which should equate to 80% of the value of the medicines dispensed. This should go a good way to covering the pharmacists' supplies bills. However the balance, which covers wages and other running expenses, arrives a month later (at least one month after the wages and bills have been paid). In the present situation, as described in the article, the estimate is frequently 80% of an out-of-date (usually lower) value. The result is that the estimate falls short of the medicines' cost and a pharmacy's cash flow is severely affected. If the problems at the PPA are not solved, the NHS management information will be of little consequence to pharmacies forced to close because their cashflow was restricted. The blame for this situation lies firmly with government and the PPA because the government introduced the changes which are causing the PPA's problems. It is worth recording that the increases in generics costs are as a result of the instructions from central government that all medicines must be supplied in 'patient packs' by the Year 2000. These will replace the pharmacist counting tablets from a bulk supply (up to 1,000 tablets in a package) into smaller containers prior to dispensing them. It is obvious that items packaged in blister packs, in boxes of 28, will cost more to produce than the same tablet packed in a tub of 1,000 tablets and although the NHS will not have to pay pharmacists a container fee, costs are likely to increase. Government caused the NHS and private contractors the problems, and government should provide resources to alleviate the situation so NHS managers have the information needed to manage the service and pharmacists are remunerated promptly and accurately. This will let them manage their businesses properly, as in the past. Richard Clarke, principal auditor, Dudley MBC Dividing up the war chest Malcolm Bruce ('View from the House', 14 October) comments on the pre-election war chest which chancellor Brown is building up. Bruce suggests (probably correctly) that the war chest will be deployed partly to cut taxes, partly to increase public spending and partly to repay some of the national debt. He concludes by describing such a compromise as 'that's politics'. Come on Malcolm, the penny should have dropped by now: surely it represents the Third Way! And if such a strategy minimises the danger of a spectacular Lawson-style series of economic blunders, then maybe it's not so bad after all. Maurice Fitzpatrick, Chantrey Vellacott DFK The trouble with men Your correspondent Sarah Beeden (Letters, 21 October) has taken quite inappropriate exception to a letter referring to an accountant in the masculine gender. As an educated woman she should know that in English, where the gender is not specified, the masculine form should be used, as in, 'every parent wants the best for HIS child'. Commonsense is quite sufficient for the reader to infer both genders are included. As members of the species man we are all men, whether certain females like it or not! Jeniffer Green FCA, Lincoln eBIS is not the first method The article on the release by BASDA of the eBIS method of exchanging documents between disparate systems on the Internet seems to imply eBIS is the first standard mechanism to be put forward for this type of function. In point of fact, a world-recognised mechanism already exists for this, although not yet standardised due to the intervention of organisations such as Microsoft intent on establishing their own (proprietary) standards. This language is XML (Extensible Markup Language), which is designed for the exchange of data in standard format between disparate systems and works with the standard Internet language HTML. It can be seen in action at the website www.rimsco.com Why do we need another (different) system to the rest of the world? BASDA would be better employed working on an XML standard for defining financial data identifiers rather than aiding and abetting those vested interests who wish to prevent standardisation as supported by the British Computer Society and other responsible bodies. Reg Smith, Thornaby on Tees, Teesside ASB is really the one at fault Surely it is the ASB that is making accounts irrelevant (28 October, page 4)? Who understands published accounts? The public don't, the politicians don't, the investors don't and, with each new standard, the managers understand less and less. The pursuit of the mecca of international accounting standards is irrelevant to the majority of UK firms. What is needed are accounts that can be understood by most people. Standards on derivatives, deferred tax and pensions confuse the matter. It is time industry told the ASB that enough is enough. If a few companies want to report to an international standard let them do so and let them bear the additional cost. Mike Frampton, via e-mail Charter not giving answers Peter Douglas (28 October, page 22) merely touches the surface of the problem - not helped by his less than accurate quotation of the objects of the English ICA that determine what can or cannot be done. He also forgets it would seem the reason for the rejection of the education and training proposals has as much to do with the interpretation of the objects as any grass roots objection to change. He refers to change to self-regulation but fails to discuss the aspect of the self-governance principles of what is a members body, not governed by statute. Activities of members are subject to statute and regulation, but the right and duty of members to manage their own disciplinary activities is enshrined in a private agreement given Royal approval more than 100 years ago, to which all members bind themselves. I believe the root problem is not the truism used as a title (The only constant is change) but the yoke of the charter and failure to determine the future purpose of the institute. Do members of the institute need the charter any longer? The advantages and the alternatives need serious debate. The present stated objects came about as an answer not so long ago of the need to meet challenges of the future and to make fundamental changes to the original charter. At that time some 12% of members troubled to vote. Is there any greater interest now? If not, then it is even more imperative that Council get down to the job of a total strategy discussion and not one that deals with only the easy parts! Continued and future membership of the institute must be based on the same clarity of vision that professional accountants of the last century employed to preserve their professional interests. It seems to me that our present charter does not give us the answer we need. Terry Grove, via e-mail Pessimism for the future Churchill told us: 'The empires of the future are the empires of the mind.' Keith White, of the UK 200 Group, displays a pessimism about the future for the sole practitioner which, I am sure, would not be approved of by a leader who in his time stood out against the doom and gloom about him and, indeed that pessimism is not accepted by sole practitioners generally (28 October, page 1). Of 18,081 English ICA-registered practices, 11,937 are represented by sole practitioners. Many, having previously been in partnership, have opted for the satisfaction of their own business. They are by their very nature, dynamic and resourceful individuals often running very profitable practices and providing something irreplaceable - expertise delivered to clients with the personal touch. Added - Value Professionals Chartered Accountants in 2005, points the way to the future and many sole practitioners are well advanced with necessary changes to meet present and future challenges. At the institute, the Sole Practitioners Group has just been formed to provide all sole-practitioner members with the support and assistance which they may require. More about this group in the near future; but if sole practitioners would like to air their views, please contact me. To conclude, an optimistic quote, this time from America 'I have seen the future and it works'. It will work for all sole practitioners who face up to and adapt to change, as must all practitioners from whatever size of firm. Alec Gilchrist, chairman English ICA Sole Practitioners Group Is the DTI really looking after the little guys? So trade secretary Stephen Byers is to make relationships with SMEs a priority and the DTI 'will listen to the needs of small businesses' (Profile, 21 October). How does Byers reconcile this with IR35 and the attack on the same small businesses it purports to support? This government is long on rhetoric and sound bites, but short on action. If Byers wanted to make sure the government 'won't do anything that restricts the growth of small businesses', then the IR35 service company proposals which (as Robert Maas rightly says) will be bad law and unworkable, should be abandoned (21 October). Byers has an opportunity for the DTI to flex its muscles - let's see whether there really is any substance behind his intentions or whether, like much of this government, it is more hollow words. Lawrence Hurst FCA, Pinner, Middlesex All letters should be sent to: The Editor, Accountancy Age, VNU House, 32-34 Broadwick Street, London W1A 2HG Tel: 0171 316 9236 Fax: 0171 316 9250 Or email us on: [email protected] Accountancy Age reserves the right to edit letters for space or clarity. Please include your title, company name and a daytime telephone number.
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