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DH plans to move 50 million GP appointments to pharmacists

By Lilian Anekwe

The Department of Health has plans to transfer more than 50 million "quick win" appointments from GPs to pharmacists, as part of a strategy to massively expand the involvement of pharmacy

Documents obtained by Pulse reveal the DH have identified certain groups of people it thinks can be encouraged to see a pharmacist instead of their GP.

The plans were informed by DH consumer research but telephone interviews were also carried out with GPs, pharmacists and also GPC members.

Their research suggests 51 million GP consultation are for minor ailments alone which could be handled by pharmacists instead.

The provision of health tests, vascular risk assessment, weight management, chlamydia screening and diabetes were all identified as ‘a quick win'.

Dr Bill Beeby, a GP in Middlesbrough and chair of clinical and prescribing subcommittee at GPC, said the target of 51m appointments was unrealistic.

He told Pulse: ‘People keep coming up with a list of conditions that could be treated by pharmacists. That's easy to say but not easy to do. These conditions need to be diagnosed correctly and you need a GP to do that. Time and time again I see people who come to me because they could not be diagnosed by a pharmacists.

‘I don't understand why people keep trying to break up health services. I'm not saying pharmacists should be excluded or anything like that, we should be working together, but they are trying to promote something that is not achievable.

‘I worry there's a lot of money being spent on promoting things that can be funded and done in general practice. It's all very well catching people as they pass by the on the high street but it's quite another to provide care for them.'

The plans were revealed as Professor Nick Barber, professor of pharmacy at the school of pharmacy, University of London, and a member of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain council, called for partnership between GPs and pharmacists to avoid creating an ‘unsustainable' health system.

‘The use of medicines is ever growing, yet there are not enough doctors in the UK. The current system is unsustainable and puts patients at risk - already 5% of hospital admissions are a result of avoidable harm from medicines. A sustainable partnership between GPs and pharmacists is the only rational way forward.'

Diabetes is one of the areas that might transfer to pharmacy under the new plans Diabetes is one of the areas that might transfer to pharmacy under the new plans GPs' views on pharmacy expansion

•"GPs feel defensive. They did very well out of their new contracts. Dispensing doctors are unhappy about the expansion of pharmacy services, and they all talk to each other. They see it as taking business away from them. There will be professional antagonism, based on income. Some GPs may find it threatening."
•"Some want to protect their own patch and don't want to delegate these services."
•"More uncomfortable if pharmacists encroach too much in, for example, chronic illness management."
•"Concern amongst GPs that pharmacists would unearth problem and then simply pass on the problem to the GP."

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