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Pilot scheme to top target with 2,000 pharmacists set to work in GP practices

NHS England is set to smash its target to deploy an extra 1,500 practice-based pharmacists through the GP Forward View (GPFV) programme, the RCGP has predicted.

Among the key commitments of the GPFV, the Government invested £31m in introducing 470 pharmacists across more than 700 practices, with an additional £112m pot of funding to see a further 1,500 pharmacists in practices over the next three years.

In its second GPFV annual assessment, published last week, the RCGP said that the scheme is ‘on track to exceed its target of 1,500 by 2020/21’.

The document said: ‘Indicative plans that are in place suggest there will be an additional 2,000 clinical pharmacists working in general practice by 2020/21.

‘A total of 1,200 full-time equivalent (FTE) clinical pharmacists for Phase 1 and Phase 2 of the programme are due to be in post by summer 2018.’

According to the RCGP, there were 615 FTE pharmacists working in general practice in September 2017, which is an increase of 202 FTE pharmacists compared to the previous year. The data also showed that an extra 708 applications for FTE pharmacists working across more than 3,200 practices had been approved, as of March of this year.

The RCGP has not yet confirmed how many more practice pharmacists it would like to see but told Pulse’s sister title The Pharmacist that the current criteria for practices to show a pharmacist will be working at a scale of one to every 30,000 population should be relaxed to one pharmacist to every 10,000.

Last week, the RCGP called on the Government to continue to pay for GP pharmacists after the funding ends, highlighting the ‘significant impact’ they had on GP workload and practice efficiencies, especially with medicines management and polypharmacy patients.

The document read: ‘Many practices are concerned that they will not be able to afford to continue to employ their pharmacists once this funding ends, unless additional recurrent funding is provided practices to support this.

‘Funding of clinical pharmacists in general practice should be made recurrent, and the programme expanded to allow for more pharmacists, and therefore a better pharmacist: patient ratio.’

NHS England had 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.

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

The RCGP’s GPFV annual assessment also called for an ‘urgent overhaul’ of the programme, including a further £2.5bn investment in general practice each year to maintain patient safety.

A version of this article was first published by Pulse sister title The Pharmacist