a doctor consulting young lady imageJuly 4 2018

A new model of care with community pharmacists providing a day’s support each week to a general practice could release 18 million GP appointments nationally.

Outcomes from a pilot scheme in Sheffield has found that “for every day of dedicated community pharmacist support for general practice, one whole session of GP clinical time is created, meaning an additional 25 patients can see their GP every week.”

The scheme was funded through the Prime Minister’s Challenge Fund (PMCF). Basegreen Pharmacy provided dedicated community pharmacy support to the Jaunty Springs Medical Centre located on a post-war housing estate in a Sheffield suburb. The practice has a list size of around 3,600 patients and its population is generally older than the Sheffield and England average.

A report on the scheme has been published by the National Pharmacy Association. It explains: “Through IT integration and a formal partnership agreement between the community pharmacy and the general practice, the community pharmacist was able to undertake appropriate consultations within the community pharmacy setting. 

“Read/write access to the full GP clinical record enabled real time information sharing and allowed the community pharmacist to make full use of their training and knowledge as the NHS medicines expert. Patients were proactively directed towards the pharmacy as a source of care, reducing demand on the practice, and improvements in the patient experience as they were able to be seen more quickly as the community pharmacist was more readily available.”

If rolled out nationally, the scheme could free up 18 million GP appointments a year, said the NPA. 

NPA Chair Nitin Sodha said: “On average there is one GP based pharmacist for 30,000 patients, which is nowhere near the scale required to meet current and future demand. In comparison, in Sheffield, the ratio was one community pharmacist for a practice population of 3500, plus the added resource of the pharmacy support staff.  

“Since NHS England has invested heavily in the General Practice Pharmacist Scheme, there is surely a strong justification for investment in pharmacy-based schemes which deliver similar benefits but can cater for many more patients, conveniently and probably at lower cost.”

Mr Sodha has called on NHS England to review this alternative model in more detail and to ensure funding is allocated from the Pharmacy Integration Programme to support the fuller deployment of the community pharmacy network.

Pharmacist Garry Myers, the owner of the pharmacy and an executive partner in the surgery, said without support from the pharmacy the surgery could have closed. 

“The experience of working in this way was beneficial for Basegreen Pharmacy and Jaunty Springs Medical Practice, which may not have survived without this partnership, as it was being overwhelmed by the needs of the local population. But above all, it’s been great for patients in the area, who have benefited from the improved access to medicines support,” he said.  

“We have adopted the successful principle that any patient that could be well-managed by the community pharmacist should be referred there to reduce practice workload, improve the patient experience and encourage positive patient attitudes towards self-care.”

Commenting on the report, PSNC Chief Executive, Simon Dukes, said: “The Jaunty Springs model gives us yet another excellent example of the many ways in which enabling community pharmacists to provide more care for patients could have a positive impact on GP practices, helping them to manage the growing pressure they are under. 

“The benefits to patients and to wider NHS services, including in economic terms, are also clearly evident from this report. Integration of community pharmacy services with other healthcare providers is something that we will continue to support and work towards, and we very much hope to see examples of successful joint working like this becoming the norm, rather than the exception.”

NPA announcement     
G Myers & J Roach. ‘New Models of Care Supporting General Practice through Community Pharmacy’. July 3 2018.