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400 more pharmacists to work in GP surgeries

Over seven million patients will see a pharmacist instead of their GP

Mark Gould

Monday, 16 November 2015

More than seven million patients will be seen by a clinical pharmacist when they visit their GP, thanks to the expansion of a new scheme to fund, recruit and employ pharmacists in local practices.

NHS England has more than doubled funding from £15m to £31m for a pilot scheme to encourage pharmacists to take a front line role in general practice due to what it says has been an "overwhelmingly positive response" from GP surgeries. 

NHS England, Health Education England, the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) and the BMA today announced the 73 applications that will receive a share of the funding, which will cover 698 GP practices and include 403 clinical pharmacists.

Recruitment of pharmacists for the three year initiative, which was announced in July, will begin now and the additional pharmacists should be in post by next spring. Patients can expect pharmacists’ help to manage long-term conditions, or for specific advice for those with multiple medications and more access to clinical advice on treatments.

Regional assessment panels examined applications against national criteria including the potential for the pilot to improve access to general practice for patients, reduce workload for GPs and to support clinical pharmacists within a multidisciplinary team. Additional funding was found to more than double the number of supported applications after the panels were impressed by the outstanding quality of responses.

The pilots will be evaluated and will build on the experiences of general practices that already have clinical pharmacists as part of their team, in some cases as partners. The work is part of the GP Workforce 10 Point Plan, which aims to strengthen and support the GP workforce.

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, the chair of the BMA GP committee, said: “General practice is under extreme pressure after a decade of escalating patient demand and falling resources, with patients understandably frustrated that they are facing longer waiting times for appointments. Nine out of ten GPs have told the BMA that the standard ten-minute consultation is not sufficient and the unprecedented workload has negatively impacted on the quality of care given to patients.

“The pilot scheme is a positive and important opportunity to develop the role of pharmacists working in practices to relieve some of the unsustainable pressures faced by GPs up and down the country. Pharmacists bring specific skills that should add value as part of multi-professional teams working in GP surgeries. We need to ensure that the benefits from these pilots can be extended to all practices nationally, so that GPs can be supported to have the time to see the increasing numbers of patients with complex and long-term conditions, and in order to provide quality and accessible care.”

And Dr Maureen Baker, chair of the RCGP, said: "The opportunity for more pharmacists to work in GP surgeries as part of the practice team is great news for GPs and our patients. It's wonderful that what started out as a joint statement between our College and colleagues at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society just eight months ago, is now becoming a reality and we can start to reap the benefits.

"We have a severe shortage of GPs across the UK, and having highly trained pharmacists working with us to take on tasks such as medication management, will help alleviate the intense pressures we are under, and improve patient safety.

"The feedback that we have received from our members who already have a practice based pharmacist is that they play an invaluable role, so we are pleased that NHS England has taken the idea so seriously and so swiftly brought it to fruition.”

Sandra Gidley, Chair of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society English Board, said: “This extra investment of £16m in the pilot is fantastic news. It’s a real vote of confidence in the pharmacy profession and a huge step towards the integration of pharmacists into primary care.

“NHS England’s support in evolving the role of the practice pharmacist will prove enormously valuable to both patients and other clinicians. More patients will see at first-hand the difference a practice pharmacist can make to their health and more GPs will come to regard them as an essential part of the multidisciplinary team in their practice.”

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