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How can I get a pharmacist for my practice?

What is the scheme?

NHS England’s Clinical Pharmacists in General Practice scheme, promised in last year’s GP Forward View, provides £112m to recruit 1,500 pharmacists for general practice by 2020 (‘a pharmacist per 30,000 of the population’). This application process follows last year’s oversubscribed pilot scheme.

What are the criteria?

According to the guidance, providers applying must show they are working ‘across a minimum population of at least 30,000’. Any provider of general practice medical services can apply, including federations. Joint bids between CCGs and practices will also be considered.

The clinical pharmacists’ role must be patient facing. The guidance states they must be embedded within the practice and ‘fully integrated members of the clinical multidisciplinary team’, with access to other healthcare professionals, all record systems, admin support and development opportunities. NHS England told Pulse successful applicants will be expected to start recruiting immediately and take steps to appoint pharmacists as soon as possible.

What could help my application?

Working with other practices. NHS England recommends the pharmacists work across several practices, while spending enough time in each one to ‘produce beneficial impact and consistency of clinical services’. NHS England told Pulse it encourages practices to apply together and that those doing so would need to agree on time allocation and employment issues such as pensions, with legal advice recommended.

Your application also needs to set out a recruitment plan, supervision for the pharmacist, how they will help the practice integrate with the wider healthcare system and evidence you can retain them beyond the initial funded period.

What is the deadline?

You can apply via the online portal, which opened on 9 January. The BMA advises doing so before 10 February, although this is a rolling application process over at least the next two years, with regional teams regularly reviewing applications received. If you are unsuccessful once you can reapply, taking into account the comments from the review.

What will NHS England pay?

NHS England will pay the equivalent of 60% of the costs of hiring a pharmacist in the first year, 40% in the second and 20% in the third. Our table below shows what NHS England will pay and therefore what GP practices should budget for their share of the funding, assuming NHS England’s percentage estimates are correct. The funding levels from NHS England are based on feedback from the pilot and an estimate of overall recruitment and employment costs.

NHS England and Health Education England will also ensure training for pharmacists and the practices that employ them. But all other costs will need to be met by the employing practices themselves.

How does the practice need to support pharmacists?

You need to ensure access to appropriate supervision for the pharmacist. Clinical pharmacists will usually be supervised by a senior clinical pharmacist and GP clinical supervisor, with a recommended number of sessions, the guidance says. For example, each clinical pharmacist should have at least one session a month with a senior clinical pharmacist, who will have at least one supervision session a month with a GP clinical supervisor. A full-time senior clinical pharmacist can supervise up to five clinical pharmacists.

The practice will also need to comply with reporting requirements and make sure it engages with patients to integrate the pharmacist into the practice.

It is a requirement for all registered pharmacists to have appropriate indemnity. If they do not have their own cover (which must be appropriate for primary care), consider adding them to your whole-practice scheme.

What will the pharmacists do?

The pharmacists should work as part of a multidisciplinary team and be prescribers (or training to become so), undertake medication reviews, lead on medicines optimisation and support ‘integration of general practice with the wider healthcare teams (including community and hospital pharmacy)’.

NHS England recommends senior clinical pharmacists are qualified for at least five years and clinical pharmacists for at least two.

How do I recruit a pharmacist?

There is a useful guide available from the Primary Care Pharmacy Association, which contains job descriptions, person specifications, a sample job advert and suggested interview questions.

Approximate costs over three years
    Year 1 Year 2 Year 3 Total
Clinical pharmacist Practice contribution £19,000 £30,000 £44,000 £93,000
NHS England contribution £29,000 £20,000 £11,000 £60,000
Senior clinical pharmacist Practice contribution £24,000 £36,000 £52,000 £112,000
NHS England contribution £36,000 £24,000 £13,000 £73,000

Sources: NHS England calculations costed in guidance. Practice contributions estimated by Pulse