Published on 16 July 2015

NHS England has announced a £15 million project to employ expert pharmacists at GP surgeries to provide additional support for people with diabetes and other long-term conditions.

The money will be spent on funding, recruiting and employing clinical pharmacists in GP surgeries over three years – set to start later this year.

Among the benefits for patients at GP surgeries will include extra help to manage long-term conditions, specific advice for those with multiple medications and better access to health checks.

Among the work that a clinical pharmacist may do in a GP practice could be monitoring people with complex long-term conditions such as hypertension or type 1 or type 2 diabetes.

NHS England are funding the move to employ pharmacists to help out at GP surgeries

The pharmacists will be employed directly by the general practice to help patients, while also easing GP workload and improving communication between general practice, hospitals and community pharmacists. The scheme will focus on areas of greatest need where GPs are under greatest pressure, and aims to build on the success of GP practices already employing pharmacists in patient-facing roles.

The announcement is an important part of the New Deal for General Practice outlined by the NHS Five Year Forward View, and is the result of close collaborative work with Royal College of General Practice, the BMA’s General Practice Committee, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society and Health Education England.

Simon Stevens, NHS England Chief Executive, said: “This has the potential to be a win-win-win for patients, their GPs and for pharmacists.

“Tapping into the skills of clinical pharmacists should help expand care and relieve some of the pressure that GPs are clearly under. This isn’t a silver bullet but it is a practical and constructive contribution to the wider challenge.”

Dr Maureen Baker, Chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners said: “GPs are struggling to cope with unprecedented workloads and patients in some parts of the country are having to wait weeks for a GP appointment yet we have a ‘hidden army’ of highly trained pharmacists who could provide a solution.

“They will not be substitutes for GPs, but will work closely with us as part of the practice team to resolve day to day medicine issues, particularly for patients with long term conditions who are taking a number of different medications. This has the potential to have a major impact on patient care and safety, as well as reducing waiting times for GP appointments.

“This arrangement is already running successfully in some GP surgeries and we hope that this £15m pilot scheme will be a catalyst for more GPs and their teams to participate.

“We are delighted that the proposals we announced with the Royal Pharmaceutical Society back in March this year are already coming to fruition, meaning that patients – and GPs – will see the benefits more quickly.”

Dr David Branford, former Chair of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society English Board said: “This is a fantastic initiative by NHS England. Pharmacists working as part of the team in general practice can make a huge difference to both patients and clinical colleagues. 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.

“As part of the multidisciplinary team, pharmacists will also be able to advise other professionals about medicines, resolve problems with prescriptions and reduce prescribing errors.

“It’s a win-win situation for everyone concerned. I am delighted that NHS England are investing in this pilot which will make best use of the NHS workforce. Working with the Royal College of General Practitioners we will be doing everything we can to support the profession and make sure this pilot is successful. In time I hope pharmacists will be working in every GP practice in the country.

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