Clinical director of St John’s Wood and Maida Vale PCN, Dr Saul Kaufman, discusses the value of clinical pharmacists to his network of seven practice, covering 45,000 patients in Westminster.
Clinical pharmacists have been the leading light of the ARRS recruitment drive in general practice. I’ll admit that a couple of years ago I foolishly thought that GPs could do everything a pharmacist did, and I wasn’t convinced of the value they could add. How wrong I was.
We are now fortunate enough to have an amazing pharmacist in our Westminster practice and I’m now an evangelical convert.
The difference a pharmacist has made is immeasurable. They prescribe more safely, have greater knowledge of interactions and in time this leads to fewer prescriptions and a smaller burden of prescription reviews.
The patients and staff can all see the benefits too. The patients who talk to her have time to ask and understand questions about their medication. That increased understanding, with the proper time investment, means they feel more empowered about ‘their’ medications and ‘their’ care. As our pharmacist does more comprehensive medication reviews over time the number of queries or requests which come through the reception team also goes down.
In Covid vaccine times, pharmacists were critical to the delivery of the programme. That also meant that practices who had gotten used to having them around really missed them when they were redeployed to the vaccine centres, where they were often diluting the Pfizer vaccines along with other mission-critical-roles.
Unfortunately, I’m not the only person who has realised the benefits of a pharmacist and they’re now (rightly) highly valued. I imagine all PCNs are looking for them. One way we’ve tried to combat this lack of workforce is to recruit, employ and train our pharmacists through our federation. It’s also easier to recruit at this scale as it’s already set up with staff. This leads to cross-pollination of good ideas and good practice across our PCNs, including safe use of inhalers and safe monitoring of many medicines.
Space is of course an issue, but practices are making sure to find rooms for our clinical pharmacists to work in, showing just how valued they are.
We have a great team of 12 pharmacists shared in line with the weighted list size and we’re expanding to take on four more. We’re aiming for one clinical pharmacist per 8,000 patients: just over double what we currently have. We’ve based this target on ARRS money available and what we thought would be the right sort of amount although we’re learning as we go.
To ensure we retain staff we are ensuring we make people feel part of the team. Truly, I don’t think a practice has far to go in incorporating our pharmacists as it’s pretty obvious once they’re here, they’re integral.