Pharmacists will work in GP practices to help address the shortage of GPs, under an initiative to be outlined by the RCGP and Royal Pharmaceutical Society today.
The proposals would see pharmacists working as part of the general practice team, in roles similar to those held by practice nurses.
The RCGP and RPS say that the move will improve patient safety and care and reduce GP waiting times.
Under the proposals, pharmacists would work closely with GPs and other colleagues to resolve day-to-day medicine issues, particularly for patients with long-term conditions and who are taking a number of different medications, and would liaise with other care providers.
Dr Maureen Baker, chair of the RCGP, said new solutions were needed to reduce waiting times, and the current oversupply of pharmacists would be one way of doing so.
She said: ‘Even if we were to get an urgent influx of extra funding and more GPs, we could not turn around the situation overnight due to the length of time it takes to train a GP.
‘Yet we already have a hidden army of highly trained pharmacists who could provide a solution. Practice-based pharmacists, working as part of the clinical team, would relieve the pressure on GPs and make a huge difference to patient care.’
She said this wasn’t a call for pharmacy premises within premises, such as with dispensing doctors, but ‘about making full use of the pharmacist’s clinical skills to help patients and the over-stretched GP workforce’.
Dr Chaand Nagpaul, GPC chair, said: ‘This proposal has the potential to improve the skills mix in local GP services and raise the number of healthcare professionals on hand to provide help to patients. This will be a welcome step forward given that GP practices are currently under unprecedented strain from rising patient demand and falling resources.
‘The implementation of this programme will be key. For it to work properly, there will need to be additional resources to enable enough pharmacists to be placed in GP surgeries. There will need to be a well thought-out, adequately resourced plan to ensure it is delivered effectively.’
Dr Baker first raised the issue of pharmacists working in GP practices in October last year.