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Umesh Modi is a chartered accountant, and Pamini Jatheeskumar is a chartered certified accountant at Silver Levene...
  Don Lavoie is alcohol programme manager at Public Health England and Gul Root is lead...
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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pharmacist-and-GPDecember 10 2015

A report is proposing that pharmacists should work more closely with GPs to solve primary care workload and workforce problems.

The benefits of looking to pharmacists to address “an immediate crisis of falling workforce and rising demand” in primary care include:

•    a significant number of suitably qualified pharmacists are available
•    pharmacists’ skills are under-used but “could play an important role in helping GP practices and primary care providers fill their gaps quickly, practically and cost-effectively
•    pharmacists working in GP practices can “drive significant improvements in care provision and working patterns”
•    patients approve of pharmacists working in GP practices.

The points came out of a roundtable discussion organised by the NHS Alliance and the Royal Pharmaceutical Society. Participants included GPs, pharmacists and patient representatives. It explored “the current role of pharmacists working within general practice, why this isn’t more widespread, what the barriers might be, and how they might be overcome.”

Among the points made in the report is that when asked why clinical pharmacy had not become more established in primary care, attendees thought that “most GPs have no idea pharmacists can work in GP practices”. This could be because of a lack of understanding of each other’s roles in part possibly due to pharmacists and GPs not training together.

“Patients also appreciated the pharmacist’s presence within general practices, stating that they have a ‘more approachable, patient-focused communications style’, and expressed an appreciation for their longer and more frequently available appointments.”

Mark Robinson, medicines, pharmacy and medicines optimisation lead at NHS Alliance, said: “Primary care is facing an immediate crisis with up to 500 GP practices at risk of closure due to an ageing workforce, as well as recruitment and retention issues.

“The roundtable clearly showed that pharmacists can help offer a practical and timely solution, filling the workforce gap and reducing pressures on general practice. And, in the cases where pharmacists have already been integrated into general practice, they have helped to drive significant improvements in care provision and working patterns.”

David Branford, RPS English Board Chair, welcomed the support from NHS Alliance to encourage greater clinical involvement of pharmacists with GPs.

“The skill set of pharmacists and their focus on medicines is very complementary to those of GPs,” he said. “The RPS has advocated closer working, and pharmacists becoming an integral part of the GP team, for many years, and the model advocated by NHS Alliance of the pharmacist being a part of and working in the GP practice is one of a range of models that enable that.”

The report includes comments from roundtable participants on a number of areas, including the workforce crises, barriers to change, brand and culture, the business case and recruitment, scale model and economics, and practical issues once a pharmacist is recruited.

“There are good examples of pharmacists adding value to GP practices, taking the lead in some areas of work and integrating within a multidisciplinary team to deliver high quality responsive clinical care,” concludes the report.

“The skills and value that pharmacists working in general practice could offer are often poorly understood and little-publicised. Skills in medicines and analytics are cornerstones for successfully managing the care of high-risk patients and this is a significant missed opportunity for the NHS. There is a clear requirement to raise awareness and share examples of best practice.”

Links:

NPA and NHS Alliance announcement

Report: ‘Pharmacists and general practice: A practical and timely part of solving the primary care workload and workforce crisis’

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