6m more patients to have access to clinical pharmacists in GP practices

Over 700 more practices, covering up to 6m patients, are to have access to a clinical pharmacist through an NHS England initiative to expand the role in general practice.

NHS England has approved bids to hire a further 219 pharmacists to work in GP practices. The pharmacists will help free up GP time by providing patient consultations and expertise on medicine-related issues to the practice.

The new roles will be co-funded by NHS England and will bring the total number of practices in England with access to a clinical pharamcist to 1,350.

The scheme, which was launched as part of the GP Forward View in April 2016, aims to recruit 1,500 pharmacists to work in practices by 2021 and is supported by over £100m investment. A pilot in 2015 co-funded 490 pharmacists in 650 practices.

Last month’s NHS Five Year Forward View Next Steps announcement said the number of co-funded clinical pharmacists working in practices would be expanded to over 900 by March 2018 and 1,300 in 2019.

Practices can still apply for the scheme and NHS England has said a second wave of applications will be considered later this spring. The closing date for applications is 12 May 2017.

Under the scheme, NHS England provides 60% towards the costs of recruitment and employment of the pharmacists for the first year, 40% in year 2 and 20% in year three. The pharmacists work for providers or collaborations of at least 30,000 patients. 

NHS England director of primary care Dr Arvind Madan said: ‘The clinical pharmacist programme is a clear win-win for patients and GPs. The pilots have shown GP workload to be eased while patients have the convenience of being seen by the right professional in a more timely way. The expansion of the programme today is great news for everyone.’

Positive feedback

Norwich CCG governing body member GP Dr Chris Dent said patient feedback from the scheme had been positive. ‘Clinical pharmacists have added a whole new dimension to patient care by improving the quality and safety of prescribing and helping us make better use of resources,' he said. 

Pharmacist John Higgins, who works from Norwich Practices Health Centre, added: ‘One of the major successes is that patients enjoy seeing us face-to-face; they ring to thank us afterwards.

‘If a GP is unsure about anything they can send me a note and I will do the prescription via the electronic prescription service within ten minutes.’

GP leaders have previously welcomed the programme. Commenting on its launch in 2016 GPC executive member Dr Mark Sanford-Wood said the scheme was 'encouraging'. But he added:  ‘The government needs to rapidly implement all of its promises connected to the GP Forward View, so that the clinical pharmacist scheme is put into place alongside concerted efforts to deliver all the GP Forward View commitments and provide GP practices with the support they so desperately need.’

There is a full list of the supported provider sites on NHS England's website

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