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GP practices set to employ more pharmacists as pilot is expanded

NHS England is set to expand its pilot that will see GP practices part funded to employ pharmacists, following an ‘absolutely staggering’ response to the original call for bids, chief executive Simon Stevens has said. 

The scheme - which NHS England originally said would provide £15m worth of funding to hire ‘around 300’ clinical pharmacists into practices to work in patient-facing roles - is being expanded to 375 places. 

It is part of the Government’s ‘new deal’ for reducing workload pressures on GPs, and it plans to help practices - likely as part of federations - to directly employ clinical pharmacists in ‘areas of greatest need where GPs are under greatest pressure’.

NHS England has said it will fund 60% of the costs of the pharmacists to the practices for the first 12 months of employment, which will decrease to 40% for the second year and 20% for the third year.

Speaking at a King’s Fund event last week, Mr Stevens said that - contrary to initial reports - NHS England had intended to help fund practices to employ 250 pharmacists.

However, he said:  ’I announced a few weeks back a programme to fund clinical pharmacists in general practice and the response to that has been absolutely staggering so in fact we’re going to expand by at least 50% the number of pharmacists in general practice that we’re going to be funding through that programme.’

When it was first announced in July, Mr Stevens said: ‘This has the potential to be a win-win-win for patients, their GPs and for pharmacists.

‘Tapping into the skills of clinical pharmacists should help expand care and relieve some of the pressure that GPs are clearly under. This isn’t a silver bullet but it is a practical and constructive contribution to the wider challenge.’

Dr Krishna Kasaraneni, chair of the GP training, education and workforce subcommittee, said it was an ‘encouraging’ move.

Elsewhere, NHS Bassetlaw CCG, in Nottinghamshire, has agreed to invest £100,000 across its 12 practices, according to list size, for practices to employ pharmacists on a sessional basis.

It is hoping that the scheme will save £1m through reducing waste and increasing efficiency, including by reviewing repeat prescriptions and checking care home prescriptions.

Readers' comments (33)

  • Personally, I think pharmacy assistants offer 90% of the role for 50% of the cost.

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  • Thank you Elaine Smith for telling the truth

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  • please read this article for the 'help' pharmacists are giving concerning flu vaccinations

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  • RCGP, GP trainers and experts in training of general practice staff should be directly involved in the upskilling the pharmacists who will be in this scheme. CPPE - Centre for Pharmacy Postgraduate Education on its own is not fit for this job at all. Training good pharmacists will be a great value for everyone and these pharmacists will save the £15m given easily on the drug budget and by improving outcomes.

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  • Integration innit

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  • Simple answer: BUY AS YOU GO.
    This is what we do every day in our pharmacies even with flu vaccines.
    You operate a very protected business unlike us and that's why you don't buy stock like a real business.

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  • I am sure that pharmacists will be very helpful, but with the practice having to pay initially 40%, then 60% and 80% with either a long term commitment to fund them entirely or the redundancy costs, I am not sure where the money will come from.
    In the past these schemes have worked initially, but not long term.

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  • This is what the government wants - competition! (and yes I think it is a bad thing in healthcare)
    I don't know much about the specifics of the vaccinations saga - but more generally I think the only way practices and partnerships will survive is if they become more cut throat in their business approach. They need to be able to say no when things do not fall in to their remit - which means not having a block contract.
    Either that or as a profession (much in the same way junior doctors are currently) we stand up for ourselves and fight for a decent contract

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  • Elaine Smith is being rather disingenuous.

    I have encountered patients who fit none of the criteria for an NHS flu vaccination, but are in receipt of a text invite from the surgery. Asthmatics with only a ventolin inhaler, patients looking after elderly relatives etc.

    I have also forwarded notifications to the surgery, only for them to attempt to vaccinate the patient on their next visit as the records weren't updated.

    Your 'fag packet' calculations are a gross exaggeration too and attempting to multiply them out to represent a nations population shows ignorance on many levels. If I were Mr Stevens, I'd put this letter in the bin where it belongs.

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  • Buy as you go, yes that's how it will be next year and absolutely no letters will be sent either.

    I thought this was supposed to be a National Health Service, trying to create herd immunity, but perhaps it's a plot to kill off our vulnerable patients with an epidemic.

    While this year is not great, next year, NHS England will reap what it sows, the market sometimes has perverse incentives.

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