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Pharmacists in GP practices ‘free up time and improve morale’, finds study

Placing clinical pharmacist staff within practices frees up GP time and helps with stress relief, a study has concluded.

The prospective observational cohort study, published in the BJGP, included 16 urban GP practices in the Inverclyde area west of Glasgow in Scotland.

The researchers, from the Inverclyde Health and Social Care Partnership, asked GPs to record the time they spent dealing with special requests, immediate discharges, outpatient requests, and other prescribing issues for two weeks prior to the study and for two equivalent periods during the study.

Specialist clinical pharmacists performed these key prescribing activities to release GP time and Read coded their activities. The researchers then surveyed GP and practice staff to assess their expectations at baseline and their experiences during the final data-collection period.

The study concluded that ‘the inclusion of additional specialist clinical pharmacists to perform key prescribing activities released an average of five hours’ direct GP time per practice per week’.

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And ‘as well as freeing up GP capacity, practices and practitioners identified positive effects on patient safety and staff morale, along with reductions in stress during the study period’, it added.

The paper concluded: ‘Specialist clinical pharmacists are safe and effective in supporting GPs and practices with key prescribing activities in order to directly free GP capacity. However, further work is required to assess the impact of such service developments on prescribing cost-efficiency and clinical pharmacist medication review work.’

It comes as the Scottish Government has said that half of GP surgeries in Scotland now have access to a pharmacist or a pharmacy technician. This has been facilitated via the new Scottish GMS contract, which came into force from April this year.

Meanwhile in England, some 2,000 practice-based pharmacists are expected to be in place by 2020/21, topping a GP Forward View pledge of 1,500, according to recent analysis by the RCGP.

While GP leaders said the new staff members are ‘welcome’ additions, they warned GPs have ‘big concerns’ about the schemes with no recurrent funding planned beyond 2020.

But a study has found that most GPs involved in NHS England’s pilot programme will continue employing their pharmacists after the funding ends.


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