NHSenglandNovember 18 2015

NHS England has almost doubled the funding that will be available for the pilot scheme for clinical pharmacists working in general practice.

Responding to the level of interest in the three year pilot which starts in 2016, NHS England has increased the available funding from £15 million to £31 million, enabling 698 GP practices to offer 403 clinical pharmacist positions. An estimated seven million patients will have access to the advice of a clinical pharmacist when visiting their GP as a result.

The original announcement of the pilot scheme in July proposed 250-300 pharmacists would be employed in the new role. The revised figures announced this week relate to 73 applications.
“Regional assessment panels examined applications against national criteria including the potential for the pilot to improve access to general practice for patients, reduce workload for GPs and to support clinical pharmacists within a multidisciplinary team,” said NHS England.

“Additional funding was found to more than double the number of supported applications after the panels were impressed by the outstanding quality of responses.” Recruitment for the pharmacist positions will commence immediately, and training will be delivered by the Centre for Postgraduate Pharmacy Education.

Simon Stevens, NHS England Chief Executive, commented: “Joint working between pharmacists and GPs has the potential to have major benefits for both patients and clinical professionals. This pilot will be a win-win for GPs, pharmacists and patients.

“By testing these new ways of working across professional boundaries we are taking another step forward to relieving some of the pressure that GPs are clearly under and ensuring patients see the health professional that best suits their needs.”

Sandra Gidley, Chair of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s English Pharmacy Board, described the extra investment of £16m as “a real vote of confidence in the pharmacy profession and a huge step towards the integration of pharmacists into primary care.

“The dramatic increase in the number of pharmacist posts also reflects the overwhelming response from GPs to this initiative and means more of those who applied will be able to benefit from having a clinical pharmacist on their team. Pharmacists can consult with and treat patients directly, relieving GPs of casework and enabling them to focus their skills where they are most needed, for example on diagnosing and treating patients with complex conditions.

“Having pharmacists in GP practices will be also be key to better communication with community pharmacists which will benefit patients as well as encouraging greater liaison and use of the community pharmacy network.

“NHS England’s support in evolving the role of the practice pharmacist will prove enormously valuable to both patients and other professionals working in primary care. More patients will see at first-hand the difference a practice pharmacist can make to their health and more GPs will come to regard them as an essential part of their practice. It’s a win-win situation for everyone involved.”

Doctors have also welcomed the announcement. Dr Maureen Baker, Chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners, said: “It’s wonderful that what started out as a joint statement between our College and colleagues at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society just eight months ago is now becoming a reality and we can start to reap the benefits.

“We have a severe shortage of GPs across the UK, and having highly trained pharmacists working with us to take on tasks such as medication management, will help alleviate the intense pressures we are under, and improve patient safety.”

Links:

NHS England announcement

RPS comment

RCGP comment

Today’s Pharmacist coverage of July announcement