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GP practices set to employ more pharmacists as pilot is expanded

NHS England is set to expand its pilot that will see GP practices part funded to employ pharmacists, following an ‘absolutely staggering’ response to the original call for bids, chief executive Simon Stevens has said. 

The scheme – which NHS England originally said would provide £15m worth of funding to hire ‘around 300’ clinical pharmacists into practices to work in patient-facing roles – is being expanded to 375 places. 

It is part of the Government’s ‘new deal’ for reducing workload pressures on GPs, and it plans to help practices – likely as part of federations – to directly employ clinical pharmacists in ‘areas of greatest need where GPs are under greatest pressure’.

NHS England has said it will fund 60% of the costs of the pharmacists to the practices for the first 12 months of employment, which will decrease to 40% for the second year and 20% for the third year.

Speaking at a King’s Fund event last week, Mr Stevens said that – contrary to initial reports – NHS England had intended to help fund practices to employ 250 pharmacists.

However, he said:  ’I announced a few weeks back a programme to fund clinical pharmacists in general practice and the response to that has been absolutely staggering so in fact we’re going to expand by at least 50% the number of pharmacists in general practice that we’re going to be funding through that programme.’

When it was first announced in July, Mr Stevens said: ‘This has the potential to be a win-win-win for patients, their GPs and for pharmacists.

‘Tapping into the skills of clinical pharmacists should help expand care and relieve some of the pressure that GPs are clearly under. This isn’t a silver bullet but it is a practical and constructive contribution to the wider challenge.’

Dr Krishna Kasaraneni, chair of the GP training, education and workforce subcommittee, said it was an ‘encouraging’ move.

Elsewhere, NHS Bassetlaw CCG, in Nottinghamshire, has agreed to invest £100,000 across its 12 practices, according to list size, for practices to employ pharmacists on a sessional basis.

It is hoping that the scheme will save £1m through reducing waste and increasing efficiency, including by reviewing repeat prescriptions and checking care home prescriptions.