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GPs go forth

Pharmacists want to bypass GP and refer patients directly to hospital

Pharmacists should have the power to refer directly to specialists and social care teams to ease the burden on GPs, a report has recommended.

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Scotland said such a move would help patients get access to care and reduce the number of unnecessary appointments for people with long-term conditions.

There is work underway to increase the number of pharmacists in general practice in Scotland, with RCGP Scotland recommending that every GP practice has a clinical pharmacist.

In 2015 £16.2 million was announced for recruiting up to 140 pharmacists with advanced clinical skills training over three years to support GPs in managing patients with long term conditions in Scotland.

Meanwhile, NHS England has pledged that every practice in England will gain access to a clinical pharmacist, in a £112m expansion of its current pilot.

The RPS policy document says the current referral process can cause delays in access to treatment for the patient and contributes to unnecessary workload for the GP.

The report said: ‘When people present at a pharmacy with problems or symptoms that require referral to, for example, a dietician or physiotherapist, the pharmacist has few options other than to default to the traditional route of referring individuals to their GP.

‘The pharmacist may have already recognised that the patient would benefit from quick access to another health or social care professional and should be able to do so as an integrated member of the multidisciplinary team.’

RPS Scotland also call for pharmacists to carry out more simple screening tests for long-term conditions such as blood sugar testing and blood pressure measurements.

Around two million people in Scotland are living with a long-term condition, which take up around 80% of GP appointments, according to the report which outlines the ‘key role’ the pharmacist can have in the ‘on-going monitoring, support and treatment’ of patients with long-term conditions.

‘The funding for pharmacists working in GP practice should become permanent to enable continuity of care and build a wider primary care team.’ RPS Scotland concludes.

John McAnaw, chair of the Scottish Pharmacy Board said: ‘I want to see these recommendations being taken forward in Scotland, so that people with long term conditions benefit further from the knowledge and expertise their pharmacist can offer as part of the wider care team.’

Dr Alan McDevitt, GPC Scotland chair, said: ‘There is definitely scope for pharmacists to be more involved in patient care and we are keen to explore ways in which this can be done that will give GPs more time with their patients.’

It comes as the NHS 111 care helpline in England has begun sending patients with minor ailments directly to pharmacy instead of GP out of hours, including for emergency prescriptions.

Readers' comments (36)

  • Referral to a dietician or physio ? Good luck with that........

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  • Yes yes yes YES. Can't get referral from GP for totally unnecessary problem. Go see your friendly pharmacist. How much will they be paid for said referral? Just to make it worth while

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  • All GP's do is write out prescriptions. And anyone can refer . It's really easy . I'm surprised there aren't more people wanting to do such a well paid simple job.
    Must be a catch somewhere.

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  • Please remind me someone why I have medical degree, membership of rcgp, 25 years of primary care experience, so I can be replaced by anybody with a healthcare related role? I am constantly astounded that our true value is so grossly underestimated, seems like anybody can do my job better than I can! Good luck to them because it really is not so simple a job as some people make it out to be.

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  • I really needed a good hard laugh. Thanks Pulse.

    Do you get Advantage points with each referral?

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  • And, of course, no commercial conflicts of interest?

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  • I have never had to admit someone who has been advised to see GP. Very occasionally I may need to refer for further tests and a further opinion but a rare occurance -24 years and counting
    We are gate keepers, a job we do well. Howmany times are we asked to refer on by other professionals? Just a thought !

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  • AlanAlmond

    This is a bad idea. Pharamacists aren't Drs, they are pharmacists. I'm sure there are plenty of wonderful pharmacists who might want to give this a go, and I'm sure the Royal College of pharmacists (if that's what they are called) would think it's a great idea..how flattering would no doubt improve the status of Pharmacists and do no end of good for the collective 'Pharacist ego'. But this is about cutting costs, fragmenting care and getting people trained for one thing to do something else cause it's easier administratively and superficially cheaper. It totally under estimates what a GP is and what they do. Why not train and employ some more bleedin GPs??? Why not do something to make the job less insufferable?

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  • cough not cleared in 3 days by benylin then TWR to respiratory easy work

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  • Knowledge is Porridge

    OK, this may not work, but can we try it?
    Having experienced using a paramedic for home visits, they were great. It makes a big difference when they are clinically supported and with full access to records.
    A lot of the problems come from care silos: We may get the very best out of pharmacists, paramedics, physician assistants and indeed district nurses when they are fully integrated into the primary care team.

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