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First ‘pharmacy-led’ practice set up in bid to counter GP shortage

A surgery in West London is likely to become the first-ever pharmacy-led practice as its partners have been unable to find GPs to run it.

The Argyle Health Group, run by GPs Dr Gouri Dhillon and Dr Arjun Dhillon, currently runs a practice in Ealing but has acquired Isleworth Medical Centre.

The medical centre will be led by five pharmacists and two salaried GPs, having previously been run by locums.

GP leaders said that this is the ‘most significant pharmacist involvement’ they had seen.

According to a job application for the five pharmacists, which closes at the beginning of October, the surgery will be a ‘pharmacy led, general practice model’, with the pharmacists responsible for ‘leading on out of hospital, QOF, QIPP, PIS and other schemes’.

It says: ‘With the support of pharmacy technicians, pharmacists will take responsibility for repeat management and safe, effective prescribing. 

‘A key role in triage and management of common ailments is anticipated.’

The job description adds that the pharmacists will be expected to manage their own caseload of ‘vulnerable housebound patients’, patients with ‘common/minor/self-limiting ailments’ and care home residents.

They will also be expected ‘to reconcile medicines following discharge from hospitals, intermediate care and medicines at discharge from into care homes, including identifying and rectifying unexplained changes’ and to ‘manage these changes without referral to a GP’.

Farid Fouladinejad, chief operating officer of Argyle Health Group, told Pulse that the practice has been looking ‘for some years to diversify its staffing skills mix’ amid a shortage of ‘suitably qualified GPs and practice nurses’.

He said: ‘Managing medications is an important part of primary care. Pharmacists can bring a rich insight and expertise to the primary care setting such as to enhance how medication is used and managed by patients during their care.’

He added: ‘Reconciliation of medications after a hospital attendance is an opportunity to enhance patient’s understanding of their management and improve the communication between primary and secondary care.’

Dr Richard Vautrey, chair of the BMA’s GP committee, said he has not seen pharmacists involved with the running of a practice ‘to this significant extent’, adding that ‘it’s certainly more significant than pharmacy involvement in other practices’.

But he added that many practices are looking to recruit a range of primary care professionals, ‘because they’re not able to recruit GPs’.

Dr Vautrey said: ‘I think the key is how are patients with complex needs and the cases that GPs would routinely see in other practices, how they’re going to be dealt with and then if the pharmacists or the workforce as a whole got the expertise to be able to deliver that and thats ultimately the responsibility of the contract holder to ensure that that is the case.’

NHS England launched a £112m scheme to employ more clinical pharmacists in practices, a portion of which NHS Hounslow CCG received.