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nuffieldtrustMay 18 2016

Another report advocating the greater use of pharmacists’ skills in order to increase NHS capacity has been published.

Health think tank the Nuffield Trust’s new report makes specific reference to the pharmacist workforce, noting their presence working in extended roles across a number of settings, including primary, community, mental health and acute inpatient care to improve prescribing and medication adherence.

It includes a case study of the Haxby Group Practice across York and Hull which has developed an extended role for a pharmacist. It followed a ‘time and motion’ study in the practice showing a sizeable portion of GP time was spent dealing with prescription management.

“This, alongside established close working with community pharmacy, triggered the decision to employ a pharmacist in the practice to take on this work. The Haxby Group Practice now employs three pharmacists who cover the 10 surgeries. The pharmacists’ main role is medicines management, either remotely (over the telephone) or face to face. They also have a role in conducting prescribing audits and dealing with regulatory issues,” says the report.

“After employing the first pharmacist, the practice realised that the pharmacist could manage to do, in 35 hours a week, work that was taking the GPs 60 hours a week. The quality of medicines management has also improved with quicker, more reliable prescribing; reduced polypharmacy (the use of multiple medications by a patient); and more patient and professional education. Medication errors or adverse incidents have not increased.”

The report, ‘Reshaping the workforce to deliver the care patients need’, recommends that skills of registered healthcare professionals, including nurses, physiotherapists and paramedics, in addition to pharmacists, could provide “opportunities to manage the growing burden of chronic disease more effectively, could release some savings, and could help bridge some of the workforce gaps that are forecast.”

However, it recognises the task will not be easy as it presents big organisational changes for NHS Trusts “and will not be easy to achieve in the current financial context. Despite this, changing staffing should be considered an urgent, ‘must-do’ priority for Trusts.”

Sandra Gidley, Chair of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s English Board, commented: “This report seizes on what we’ve advocated for a long time – that the skills, knowledge and training that pharmacists and other NHS staff have must be better utilized to create better care for patients.

“Pharmacists can help manage the growing burden of chronic disease and bridge some of the workforce gaps in primary care. This is clearly evidenced every day by the excellent work community pharmacists do to support patients and by those taking on new roles in GP surgeries and care homes. What’s vital is that the right professional does the right job, and pharmacists should be involved whenever medicines are involved in patient care.”

Ms Gidley added: “The future for all pharmacists lies in greater integration with the primary care team, something we have all wanted for so long, in whatever setting it takes place. The traditional roles of all health professionals are changing to meet the needs of patients and pharmacists are among the pioneers here.”

Links:

Nuffield Trust announcement

Nuffield Trust report summary

‘Reshaping the workforce to deliver the care patients need’ report

RPS response

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