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NHS provides £15m for pharmacists in GP surgeries

Scheme will benefit patients and relieve pressure on surgeries under worst pressure

Louise Prime

Wednesday, 08 July 2015

General practices in England will benefit from a £15m scheme to provide expert pharmacist support for patients, NHS England has announced. Chief executive Sir Simon Stevens said the scheme will reduce pressure on GPs as the pharmacists help patients with managing long-term conditions, advise them on multiple medications and provide better access to health checks. GP leaders said the scheme could have a major impact on patient care and safety, and cut waiting times for GP appointments.

NHS England said the three-year scheme, which goes live later this year, will – in those areas where workload pressure on GPs is greatest – provide partial funding for surgeries to directly recruit and employ pharmacists. It will cover 60% for the first 12 months of employment; 40% for the second 12 months; 20% for the third 12 months; and nothing after the first 36 months of support (or fewer months if recruited after 31 March 2016).

NHS England said these clinical pharmacists could:

  • provide clinical advice and expertise on treatments
  • develop bespoke medicine plans for individual patients
  • establish ongoing professional relationships with individual patients
  • assist with communication across a patient’s care pathway, including with GPs, hospitals and social care
  • monitor patients with complex long-term conditions such as hypertension or diabetes
  • manage repeat prescription requests
  • increase the uptake of new medicines
  • manage medicines shortages by suggesting suitable alternatives where appropriate
  • support innovation and clinical research where appropriate
  • mentor newer pharmacists

Simon Stevens said: “This has the potential to be a win-win-win for patients, their GPs and for pharmacists. Tapping into the skills of clinical pharmacists should help expand care and relieve some of the pressure that GPs are clearly under. This isn’t a silver bullet but it is a practical and constructive contribution to the wider challenge.”

GP leaders said a similar arrangement is already working well in some surgeries, and welcomed the funding for further pilots. Dr Maureen Baker, chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: “GPs are struggling to cope with unprecedented workloads and patients in some parts of the country are having to wait weeks for a GP appointment yet we have a ‘hidden army’ of highly trained pharmacists who could provide a solution. They will not be substitutes for GPs, but will work closely with us as part of the practice team to resolve day to day medicine issues, particularly for patients with long-term conditions who are taking a number of different medications. This has the potential to have a major impact on patient care and safety, as well as reducing waiting times for GP appointments.”

Dr Krishna Kasaraneni, BMA chair GP training, education and workforce subcommittee, said the scheme is an encouraging sign that the potential and importance of the pharmacy sector is being recognised, but added: “We will need to look closely at how these pilots operate and ensure that the clinical benefits of the scheme are clear.”

Pharmacists have sought to reassure the public about the safety of the scheme. Sandra Gidley, chair of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society English Pharmacy Board, said: “Pharmacists train as clinicians for five years – one year less than a doctor, one year more than a nurse – and will be working as part of the team, alongside GPs and practice nurses in a mutually supportive way."

Surgeries who wish to take part in the pilot scheme must apply by Thursday 17 September.

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