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Don Lavoie is alcohol programme manager at Public Health England and Gul Root is lead pharmacist, Health and Wellbeing Directorate, Public Health England
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NHS England logoJuly 8 2015

NHS England has announced a £15 million pilot scheme which will “fund, recruit and employ” clinical pharmacists in GP surgeries.

Running over the next three years the scheme will see around 250-300 pharmacists employed directly by general practices in the first wave of the programme, supporting around 1 million patients.

The clinical pharmacists’ role will be to support GPs in helping to manage long-term conditions, provide specific advice for people on multiple medications and increase the access to health checks. Pharmacists will also be tasked with helping improve communication about patients’ medicines between the GP surgery, hospitals and community pharmacies.

NHS England says the model of each pilot site will be based on one senior clinical pharmacist and five clinical pharmacists. The senior clinical pharmacist will provide mentoring to the other pharmacists, including training support where needed to take on prescribing responsibilities during the programme.

Throughout the first year the clinical pharmacists will undertake a tailored education programme which is being developed by the Centre for Postgraduate Pharmacy Education. Examples of work that a clinical pharmacist may do in a GP practice could be as follows:

  • providing clinical advice and expertise on treatments
  • developing bespoke medicine plans for individual patients
  • establishing ongoing professional relationships with individual patients
  • assisting with communication across a patient’s care pathway, including with GPs, hospitals and social care
  • monitoring patients with complex long term conditions such as hypertension or diabetes
  • managing repeat prescription requests
  • increasing the uptake of new medicines
  • managing medicines shortages by suggesting suitable alternatives where appropriate
  • supporting innovation and clinical research where appropriate
  • mentoring newer pharmacists.

Practices and groups of practices are now being invited to bid to participate in the pilot and are “strongly encouraged to work together to assemble joint bids involving pharmacists across a number of sites.” It is anticipated that clinical pharmacists will be in post early in 2016.

NHS England will co-fund the new pharmacists alongside practices for 36 months, paying 60% for the first 12 months of employment, 40% for the second year, and 20% for the third year.

Sandra Gidley, Chair of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s English Board, commented: “This substantial investment by NHS England shows the confidence that the NHS has in the pharmacy profession to deliver direct patient care. We are now seeing the results of our joint work with the Royal College of General Practitioners, which will provide an opportunity for pharmacists, from a range of backgrounds, to use their skills as part of the general practice team, improving patient care.

“Many pharmacists and GPs already work closely to resolve day to day medicine issues, particularly for patients with long term conditions and who are taking a number of different medications. I am particularly pleased that these new roles emphasise the importance of liaison with hospitals, community pharmacists and care homes to ensure seamless care for patients.”

Sue Sharpe, PSNC Chief Executive, was pleased that “NHS England recognises the medicines expertise of pharmacists and the role that they can play to better support patients in their treatment plans. Pharmacists working in GP practices to supplement and support the care already given by GPs and community pharmacists could be a real advance, bringing clinical benefits to many patients,” she said.

“Community pharmacy teams are the most accessible healthcare professionals and often the ones who are seen most regularly by patients. They have shown how they can help patients and we must build on this potential, with pharmacists in other settings collaborating closely with them to ensure patients are receiving joined up and consistent care.

“We hope that this project will give community and other pharmacists a chance to explore new ways of working, and perhaps training, together to offer the best possible care to patients.”

Pharmacy Voice, which represents pharmacy owners, lent its support to the scheme, but chief executive Rob Darracott cautioned that it is “vital to ensure that part of the remit of individuals taking up these roles is to strengthen the links between general practice and the community pharmacy network.

“If implemented successfully, this will greatly amplify the benefit to both GPs in terms of workload reduction, and ultimately to patients who will receive more integrated care and enhanced access to qualified healthcare professionals across the whole care pathway.

“While this move is obviously a priority for NHS England, it is paramount that we do not put other important developments for community pharmacy on the back-burner. It is essential that other initiatives that support effective joint-working are accelerated, such as the roll out of Summary Care Records ideally with a move to read/write access.”

Links:

NHS England announcement    

NHS Commissioning pilot    

RPS response    

PSNC response    

Pharmacy Voice response    

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