Expanding pharmacy roles could push work onto GPs in Scotland

Plans for pharmacists in Scotland to treat long-term conditions could increase practice workload as 'risk adverse' pharmacists tell patients to visit a GP, GP leaders warn.

Dr Marshall: warned that the plans could increase the workload for GPs
Dr Marshall: warned that the plans could increase the workload for GPs

The Scottish government has launched a review of the role pharmacists play in primary care with the aim of increasing the scope of their work and encouraging closer working with GPs.

The review will look at whether pharmacists could provide care for patients with long-term conditions, including diabetes and asthma. 

The findings are expected to be published in autumn 2012 and will feed into the government's programme for pharmaceutical care in Scotland over the subsequent five years.

Scotland’s health secretary Nicola Sturgeon said pharmacists were playing an increasingly important role in the direct care of patients.

‘Pharmacists' work goes far beyond that of the supply of medicines and includes direct patient care such as medication reviews for those at risk of falls and prescribing clinics for patients with chronic pain,' she said. ‘However, we believe that there is further scope to develop and enhance their role for the future.’

But GPC Scotland chairman Dr Dean Marshall warned that the plans could increase the workload for GPs as pharmacists tend to be more ‘risk adverse’. He said this has already been the case following a move to hand pharmacists a greater role in the treatment of minor ailments.

‘We get patients demanding to be seen urgently because a pharmacist has told them they need to see a GP,’ he said.

Dr Marshall said while pharmacists were ‘well qualified’ they could not be seen as ‘cheap alternatives to doctors’. ‘If they are going to provide new services there has to be evidence that it will make a difference,' he said.

‘The concern is that these services are often brought in in an uncoordinated way and results in lots of useless information being passed to GPs who then have to decide what’s important and what’s not.’

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