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Practice-based pharmacists free up GP time

A clinical pharmacist saves five hours’ GP time a week in prescribing work alone

Ingrid Torjesen

Wednesday, 26 September 2018

A clinical pharmacist based in a GP practice saves around five hours of GP time per week just in prescribing work, a small study* published in the British Journal of General Practice has found. Clinical pharmacists were also found to have a positive impact on patient safety, staff morale, and staff stress.

Clinical pharmacists in general practice have been proposed as a way of reducing GP workload and improving patient care and the Scottish government has invested in recruiting pharmacists into general practices to support the care of patients with long-term conditions.

However, little is known about the impact of these policies, so researchers looked at the effects of these clinical pharmacists in 16 urban practices which make up the Inverclyde Health and Social Care Partnership in NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde.

The clinical pharmacists were asked to take on specific prescribing work at the practices. This work included special requests (for acute prescriptions created and issued by a GP without an appointment), immediate discharges (letters or documents containing patient discharge information from an inpatient admission and ensuring drugs were clinically reviewed and accurately reconciled), outpatient requests (requests by specialist outpatient clinics for a GP to prescribe or continue drugs), and other drugs matters (including supply problems, practice drug information, and community pharmacy queries).

These tasks would previously have been carried out by a GP so for two weeks before the study and for two equivalent periods during the study, GPs at the practices recorded the time they spent on these activities.

The results showed that clinical pharmacists reduced GP time spent on these four prescribing activities across the 16 practices by 51%, saving an average of 4.9 hours per week per practice.

Surveys of GPs and practice staff found that the pharmacists were well received and appreciated, improved patient safety, had a positive impact on staff morale, and reduced staff stress levels.

The researchers concluded: “Specialist clinical pharmacists are safe and effective in supporting GPs and practices with key prescribing activities.”

They added that further work is needed to assess the impact of practice-based clinical pharmacists on prescribing cost efficiency and drug reviews.

*Maskrey M, Johnson CF, Cormack J, et al. Releasing GP capacity with pharmacy prescribing support and New Ways of Working: a prospective observational cohort study. Br J Gen Pract 24 September 2018; bjgp18X699137.

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