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Pharmacist referrals 'threaten future of vascular screening'

By Nigel Praities

GPs are having to cope with large numbers of referrals from pharmacists where vascular screening is being run outside of general practice, Pulse can reveal.

Three-quarters of patients assessed by pharmacists in one pilot are being referred back to GPs, even though practices are receiving no funding for follow-up care.

GP leaders warned the findings were a threat to the future of the vascular checks programme, because they meant funding was not being directed where it was most needed.

The figures – from a pilot project run in North Tyneside last year – reveal pharmacists conducted 211 vascular risk assessments in their pharmacies and through community events over 12 months, with 158 patients referred back to GPs.

The scheme was focused on men aged over 50 years with patients referred back to GPs for reasons such as high blood glucose or blood pressure levels. Vascular screening should eventually include everyone aged 40 to 74 years.

Dr George Rae, secretary of Newcastle and North Tyneside LMC, said: ‘I'm not against what pharmacies are doing, but this shows there is a lack of joined-up thinking. The checks are not so different from what we're doing under the QOF.'

The health checks were successful in making recipients think about their health – with 65% of respondents to a questionnaire about the scheme saying they had since made changes to their lifestyle.

But Dr Stewart Findlay, treasurer of the Primary Care Cardiovascular Society and a GP in Bishop Auckland, County Durham, warned pharmacists were being generously funded for only ‘partial' checks, and GPs would be left with a ‘huge amount of work'.

‘If three-quarters of the people are being bounced back into general practice, and that is unfunded, then the vascular checks programme will fall apart,' he said.

Pharmacist referrals back to GPs may threaten the future of vascular screening, some GPs fear Pharmacist referrals back to GPs may threaten the future of vascular screening, some GPs fear

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