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600 mental health workers and 700 pharmacists added to GP practices

NHS England has recruited nearly 600 mental health workers and more than 700 clinical pharmacists to GP practices as of December 2017.

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.

This comes as NHS England is two years into its five-year plan to rejuvenate general practice by 2020 with the GP Forward View.

NHS England told Pulse that since the GP Forward View launched in April 2016, 594 mental health workers have been recruited to the IAPT programme.

An NHS England spokesperson said: ‘We are already seeing progress in many areas of the country with 594 extra therapists in December 2017, which is in line with GPFV commitment.’

They added that CCGs ‘are starting from varying baselines in joining up mental and physical health services’, but added that NHS England is ‘monitoring progress, as CCGs across England recruit and train more therapists’.

While some of the practice-based mental health therapists would be recruited from secondary care, NHS England said they did not have a breakdown of how many new recruits had been added to the workforce.

This comes after Pulse revealed that the therapists would not be employed directly by GPs and only some of the new practitioners will work in practices, with one therapist for 2-3 typical sized GP practices.

Meanwhile, an analysis of official IAPT data found that six in 10 CCGs missed the target for the number of people who should be accessing talking therapies in 2017.

NHS England also said 734 clinical pharmacists – or 490 full-time equivalent pharmacists – had been recruited to primary care in four waves since September 2015.

Practices were first invited to bid for funding to employ a practice pharmacist in January 2017, with the first two waves benefitting around 783 practices.

The scheme – worth £122m – will see a further four recruitment waves through to February 2019.

NHS England said: ‘As at 31 December 2017, NHS Digital report 1,009 clinical pharmacists – or 658 FTE – were actively working in general practice, an increase of 734 (490 FTE) since September 2015.

‘The approved applications across phase one and two of the clinical pharmacist programme mean nearly 34m patients across circa 3000 practices will benefit from improved GP services.’

They added that NHS England is ‘on track to spend the £112m in full’. 

Dr Richard Vautrey, chair of the BMA’s GP Committee, told Pulse: ‘Whilst any additional recruitment to an expanded primary care team is welcome, even those practices that have benefitted from new staff have big concerns about the sustainability of the schemes as there is no recurrent funding to support these initiatives.

‘Investing properly in pharmacists in every practice is an obvious way to reduce medicine related adverse incidents and by doing so not only save lives but also potentially reduce costs for the NHS. There is, therefore, an urgent need to identify recurrent funding to support a much wider roll-out.’

This comes after the Chief Medical Officer sent personalised letters to more than 8,000 GPs last month telling them that they are overprescribing antibiotics.



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