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Pharmacists within general practice could help lift GP burden, says RCGP chair

Pharmacists should be employed by practices to perform tasks like medicine reviews and help relieve some of GPs’ workload until new trainees can enter the profession, the RCGP has said.

Speaking at the Best Practice conference in Birmingham yesterday, the college’s chair Dr Maureen Baker said she was very interested in new roles in general practice to increase its capacity.

Debating alongside representatives from practice nursing and pharmacy about whether the NHS needed 10,000 more GPs, Dr Baker said new roles were needed in the immediate future but increasing the number of GPs was still vital.

She told delegates: ‘I’m very interested, as well, in the potential of other new roles, like for instance pharmacists isn’t new, pharmacists in general practice probably is.

‘There are other new roles as well that we can explore, basically we’re not going to get a significant number of new GPs much before three or four years on, so we do need to consider that.’

She added: ‘I spent hours this week doing medication review for patients, somebody whose kidney functions are deteriorating, “what’s safe, what’s not safe? That’s hugely time consuming, and that’s just one example.

‘There are pharmacy skills out there, and let’s see quick, safe ways to get these skills into general practice. And let’s look to see what other roles we can design, that will support GPs, support nurses, and are quick to train.

‘We need to do this within the next year, 18 months, to keep general practice going until we get more GPs and other highly skilled professionals online.’

Earlier this month, Pulse revealed the college was lobbying ministers for a similar scheme to introduce ‘medical assistants’ who would help GPs with their administrative burden and free up more time to see patients.

In his keynote speech at the Best Practice conference, health secretary Jeremy Hunt revealed that the Department of Health were now working on the scheme with the RCGP.

He said: ‘Training a GP takes time, and we have to do things in the short term to improve capacity… being innovative in our use of physicians assistants or medical assistants - as is pretty standard practice for general practice in the United States - and we’re looking at it at the moment with the RCGP.

Yesterday, Pulse revealed that the workforce crisis was unlikely to abate anytime soon after Health Education England admitted 12% of GP training places remain unfilled, despite launching an unprecedented third round of GP recruitment.

Related images

  • Maureen Baker-RCGP 2014-Online-cropped-(c) Rachael Meyer

Readers' comments (66)

  • Nonsense-our pharmacist 20 yds away tells everone and anyone to "go and see your GP" even for OTC medications, advising them to "get a script". They won't take any responsibility I am afraid.

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  • Experienced pharmacists command wages similar to band 7 nurses. Inexperienced ones are more of a liability then help.

    How will this help me? It might cut my work by 20% but it will also cut my income by the same amount. And that reduction in work will only be replaced by some other work.

    By the way, my local medicine management team is forever trying to recruit a pharmacist. How did Dr Baker suggest we find this non existent work force?

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  • When I have to employ a snake oil peddlar who will happily pull cash out of patients pockets selling homeopathy, diabetic chocolate and cough sweets, I will watch the pigs fly outside of the window.

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  • I have been working with some pharmacists and I am not impressed

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  • At best all this will do is introduce another group of people who cannot solve problems and will generate additional medico legal risk for doctors.

    After all do academic pharmacists in hospitals get involved in patient care - apart from a very narrow remit around prescribing they do not - for very good reasons.

    Again this is typical naive rubbish from the RCGP chair. She is really working hard to be considered more incompetent then prof Field ( at least he was reasonable in office).

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  • Towing the line and selling out the profession - have no faith in the RCGP.
    This is all planned - GP workforce crisis is deliberate.

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  • Took Early Retirement

    A totally idiotic comment, and frankly, a bit worrying.

    Where I worked we had PCT- attached pharmacists and by and large they didn't achieve any work reduction at all, except in meeting targets for pharmacy work imposed on us by the said PCT. A typical example of the NHS inventing tick box work of very questionable value.

    I saw a sign in the window of a local pharmacy- "Special offer, economy boxes of Tampax- for a short period only"

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  • Please, everyone - cancel your membership of the RCGP; they are part of the problem and not the solution.

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  • I partly agree with Dr Baker. I believe pharmacists can help but in truth only in imposing CCG prescribing dictats and "suggested changes" to balance the CCG numbers. This is the prescribing targets that we break our backs to achieve the gains from which are wiped out many times over in secondary care gaming of tariffs. Pharmacists can indeed help with delivering (usually pharmacy dreamt up) changes enforced upon us for financial "gains" to balance CCG books and create a saving for the treasury. So as normal we pay to provide benefits to all except ourselves because the work load stays the same but we get less.

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  • Given the comments above I feel rather brave but here is my view on how community pharmacy should shape up. I humbly agree with many of the sentiments above but am optimistic. Autonomy and taking responsibility to manage patients is an issue to be addressed.
    I should say that I work with fantastic GP colleagues who judge my work on its merits and positive outcomes only.

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