This site is intended for health professionals only

At the heart of general practice since 1960

Read the latest issue online

CAMHS won't see you now

NI investing millions in five-year pharmacist scheme to relieve GPs

GP workload in Northern Ireland will be eased through funding for pharmacists based within practices, health minister Simon Hamilton has said.

He has pledged £2.6m a year from 2016/17, rising to £14m a year by 2020/21 for the five-year initiative.

The announcement follows sustained lobbying by the BMA to have pharmacists on hand to carry out routine medication reviews and advise patients on their medication as part of a team of GPs and practice nurses.

Mr Hamilton said the changes would make it easier for patients to get appointments with GPs, and improve their health outcomes.

He added: ‘We know our GP services face rising demand for appointments and prescriptions. We also know that patients are not getting the optimal benefits from their medicines, and that there is a high level of non-adherence and waste across the UK, with up to 6% of hospital admissions due to the adverse effects of medication.’

GPs delivered 875,000 more consultations with patients in 2013/14 than in 2010/11, and there was a 42% increase in repeat prescriptions in the 10 years following 2003/4.

Mr Hamilton said: ‘Critically, having a pharmacist as part of a clinical team within a practice can also relieve work pressure on GPs, freeing up time for the GP to spend with patients with more complex medical needs.’

Northern Ireland GPC chair Dr Tom Black said: ‘The five-year investment will go some way to alleviating the crisis faced by GPs in Northern Ireland, whereby they are dealing with increased bureaucracy, rising patient lists and a shortfall in the number of training places available for GPs in Northern Ireland.

’Having a pharmacist based in the practice will mean that GPs are freed up to do what they need to do – see more patients.’

The scheme mirrors NHS England’s £31m initiative which will see 700 practices employing pharmacists.


Readers' comments (10)

  • Pharmacists will improve medication reviews and will no doubt save money in the short term. However, I really do not think they will lower the GP appointment demand by much at all. Demand will gobble them up in no time and calls for more pharmacists will come. More money wasted trying to solve a problem with a problem. What we need is a way to stem and control demand, not feed it. You don't see people going to the dentist first before seeing their GP now do you ?

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Is there any evidence behind this? Pharmacists will be excellent at medication reviews but we tend to do this as and when patietns come in.

    As above I don't think it will reduce demand on GPs to carry out the more complex decision making

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • "Mr Hamilton said the changes would make it easier for patients to get appointments with GPs,"

    I can't see more appointment being available. The only potential benefit of pharmacists working with us is to ease our massive and unsafe workload. At its best it will allow us some time to catch our breath and perhaps stop the speed of the exodus from general practice to a slight extent i.e.. It may allow us to not finish our work so late on in the day/evening but it certainly won't improve the capacity for us to see more patients.

    Agree with the above comments.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • It is good to see that Mr Hamilton knows that a GP service actually exists at all as the silence from Stormont about the crisis in GP in NI has been deafening to date! This token gesture will have no material effect on stemming the tide of desolation about to hit primary care in Northern Ireland, a tsunami of general practice closure is about to hit us very soon, retention problems and recruitment shortages are overwhelming the inward dribble of new GPs coming into the service just now!
    Once again, Stormont has avoided the main issues causing such a huge problem in primary care, when secondary care needs new doctors they get them! When general practice needs new GPs we get pharmacists instead, enough said! I give primary care another 12-24 months more, before we see mass practice closures and total collapse of the service.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • I am not a gp but the logic in this does not sound right.

    Why will a pharmacist reduce the work load of a gp? It sounds like it will increase the workload as it is another person to discuss everything with and take the rap for.

    Sounds like the drug companies are worried that the lack of gps may reduce the amount of prescriptions written.

    Why dont they just give GPs more money then all these half brained solutions to the problem will reduce.

    So stupid but I suppose not in the light that the government wants to break the 'control' doctors have over ill people.

    It is unbelievable really the lengths the government is going to to break down the doctors role. So malicious and unneccesary as we all went into the profession to help ill people, well at least I did. I never expected the government to play power games against me.
    i have voted tory all my life but now.......

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • I think for many years now the decision makers are too divorced from real time General Practice.This is foolishness

    The equation is obvious to any front line GP. It will cost more and increase workload, not reduce workload.

    There is also the thorny issue of indemnity. If pharmacists are seeing patients they need appropriate accountability and indemnity.GP's working with them must not take responsibility for them.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • @|Anonymous | Other healthcare professional|12 Dec 2015 9:26am

    'It is unbelievable really the lengths the government is going to to break down the doctors role.'

    It is called jealousy. Well spotted though.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • cough cough cough, kerching£ £kerching kerching£

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Mad. Will merely re-inforce the widespread public belief that minor illness needs expert attention and treatment. Stop feeding the beast!

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • There are reasons pharmacists aren't generally employed by GPs to work as clinicians. Doing it now because political meddling has made general practice so unpopular that there aren't enough GPs and dressing it up as a solution to the rising workload (can't see it myself) instead of tackling the cause of the shortage seems very short-termist.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

Have your say