GP workload in Northern Ireland will be eased through funding for pharmacists based within practices, health minister Simon Hamilton has said.
He has pledged £2.6m a year from 2016/17, rising to £14m a year by 2020/21 for the five-year initiative.
The announcement follows sustained lobbying by the BMA to have pharmacists on hand to carry out routine medication reviews and advise patients on their medication as part of a team of GPs and practice nurses.
Mr Hamilton said the changes would make it easier for patients to get appointments with GPs, and improve their health outcomes.
He added: ‘We know our GP services face rising demand for appointments and prescriptions. We also know that patients are not getting the optimal benefits from their medicines, and that there is a high level of non-adherence and waste across the UK, with up to 6% of hospital admissions due to the adverse effects of medication.’
GPs delivered 875,000 more consultations with patients in 2013/14 than in 2010/11, and there was a 42% increase in repeat prescriptions in the 10 years following 2003/4.
Mr Hamilton said: ‘Critically, having a pharmacist as part of a clinical team within a practice can also relieve work pressure on GPs, freeing up time for the GP to spend with patients with more complex medical needs.’
Northern Ireland GPC chair Dr Tom Black said: ‘The five-year investment will go some way to alleviating the crisis faced by GPs in Northern Ireland, whereby they are dealing with increased bureaucracy, rising patient lists and a shortfall in the number of training places available for GPs in Northern Ireland.
’Having a pharmacist based in the practice will mean that GPs are freed up to do what they need to do – see more patients.’
The scheme mirrors NHS England’s £31m initiative which will see 700 practices employing pharmacists.