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700 GP practices to employ clinical pharmacists as NHS pilot expands

NHS England has doubled the funding available for its national pilot of clinical pharmacists in general practice, meaning 700 practices will benefit from a share of the £31m fund.

The significant expansion of the scheme, first announced in July, is due to ‘overwhelmingly positive responses’ from GPs, and recruitment of 403 clinical pharmacists is due to begin immediately for a spring 2016 launch.

The pilots, announced by NHS England today, will cover 83 practices in London, 230 in the south of England, 183 in the Midlands and 203 in the north, spanning a population of 7.6 million patients.

The scheme will run for three years and NHS England will contribute 60% of costs for the first 12 months – which will include a ‘training programme’ – dropping to 40% then 20%.

Practices already employing pharmacists have reported they play an ‘invaluable role’ in alleviating GP workload by taking on medicines management tasks and freeing up GP time to focus on patients with increasingly complex care needs.

GP leaders welcomed the swift development and implementation of the scheme in response to the acute workforce crisis currently affecting the profession.

However, they added that resources now needed to be dedicated to recruiting and retaining GPs in general practice.

In a statement NHS England said pilots were chosen based on their potential to improve GP access and reduce workload.

It added: ‘Additional funding was found to more than double the number of supported applications after the panels were impressed by the outstanding quality of responses.’

The GP clinical pharmacist pilot was developed as part of the joint NHS England, Health Education England, RCGP and GPC 10 point GP workforce plan.

The plan also promoted expanding general practice teams to make use of physician associates and advanced nurse practitioners, with health secretary Jeremy Hunt pledging to recruit 5,000 more supporting staff by 2020 in his ’new deal’ speech.

GPC chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said the pilots were a ‘positive and important opportunity’ to relieve some unsustainable pressure on GPs, but should be available to all practices.

He said: ‘We need to ensure that the benefits from these pilots can be extended to all practices nationally, so that GPs can be supported to have the time to see the increasing numbers of patients with complex and long-term conditions, and in order to provide quality and accessible care.’

RCGP chair Dr Maureen Baker said: ‘The feedback that we have received from our members who already have a practice-based pharmacist is that they play an invaluable role, so we are pleased that NHS England has taken the idea so seriously and so swiftly brought it to fruition.’

NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens said the pilot would be a ‘win-win for GPs, pharmacists and patients’ adding: ‘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.’


Readers' comments (28)

  • We bid as a federation and were unsuccessful.

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  • Are they on short term contracts,who is responsible for redundency payments when these monies dry up and there has been no uplift in primary care funding to compensate for the extra bodies?

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  • How long before those pharmacists start to drown in a sea of workload? It would say right away. Burnt out GPs will redirect everything to them. Oh look, another pharmacist quit. I wonder why?

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  • NHSE subsidises the pharmacists in the first few years and then they are expected to become part of the practice team. The practice (or federation in our case) take the risk around redundancy etc. Given there was much more interest that expected the issue of employment risk does not seem to have been a general issue

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  • Another great idea from the Good Idea Fairy; let's hope all that money going down does not block the toilet.

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  • Looked at it but from what I remember the practice would have to fund the pharmacist eventually which in our case would mean cutting clinical sessions.

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  • the model is based on the assumption that pharmcists can take on GP work e.g. repeat authorisation. Some practices think this will work and some don't. No doubt posters on here will bein the latter camp

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  • Just a thought folks, but what will you do instead when you run out of GPs? I would much rather a GP as well, but those who wait end up having to do this from their own pocket instead. Or, of course, you could run out of capacity to see patients and go bust at your own expense. I hear detractors, but not many alternatives.

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  • It will be interesting to see just how "invaluable" the Pharmacists remain when individual Practices become responsible for their costs.

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  • So pharmacists in GP practices is a great idea eh? Where is the evidence base for this? Quoting the anecdotal success stories of those enthusiasts who have already engaged in this is unscientific and possibly misleading.
    In 2011 the RPC and RCGP published a joint paper on the role of pharmacists in General Practice. It was full of hope for the role of pharmacists in GP but was sensibly loaded with caveats about training etc. What has been published since then and what is the quality? What progress has been made in terms of training? Professor Christine Bond wrote an article in the October issue of the BJGP which was very supportive of the use of pharmacists in GP but was severely lacking in substantial evidence as to why we should be following this path. Is this because the evidence does not exist? We need to beware the rising tide of influential characters in our profession who promote popular policy without evidence. What is their agenda?
    The fact is that there are too few GPs and too many pharmacists. There is no national cap on the number of university places for pharmacists – hence the glut. There are too few places at medical school however, and we are seeing a brain drain as doctors emigrate. Logic would suggest that we should cap the number of places for pharmacists and increase the number for doctors so that people do the job they are trained for. But, of course, the real agenda is to do everything on the cheap and our so called leaders perversely support this. The approach may help (or possibly hinder) in the short term but it is not a long term solution. A workforce crisis should not have us all agreeing to a lowering of standards and nor should general practice be used to find a place for inappropriately trained people who have joined an oversubscribed profession.

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