Practices offered £112m in funding to employ clinical pharmacists

An NHS England scheme to kickstart plans for 1,500 pharmacists to work in GP practices by 2020/21 will launch next month, when practices will be able to bid for a slice of £112m in funding to recruit a clinical pharmacist.

NHS England has made the funding available following the success of the scheme in pilot areas.

Applications for the England-wide scheme open up in January, and will form the first phase of NHS England’s target – laid out in the GP Forward View – to get 1,500 pharmacists working in general practice by 2020/21.

It will see pharmacists working as part of GP teams to provide specialist advice to patients, particularly the elderly with multiple conditions.

NHS England said the initiative would free up GPs’ time and have knock-on benefits of reducing the number of patients going on to attend A&E.

The practice-based pharmacists will also work closely with community and hospital pharmacists to provide joined-up NHS pharmacy services – and ease pressure on other parts of the health service.

Medicine reviews

Simon Stevens, NHS England chief executive, said: ‘For patients with long-term conditions like diabetes or high blood pressure, regularly reviewing your medicines with a pharmacist can cut side-effects and improve the effectiveness of treatment.

‘So in 2017 the NHS is going to expand the services on offer in GP surgeries to include clinical pharmacists, which will also free up GPs to spend more time with the patients who need their care.’

The move was welcomed by GP leaders, but they warned that other GP Forward View promises must be delivered ‘rapidly’ as the scheme would not fix general practice’s problems alone.

Dr Mark Sanford-Wood, BMA GP committee executive team member said: ‘This is an encouraging scheme which should help reduce workload for over stretched GP practices by allowing the appropriate use of clinical pharmacists to treat patients with specific health needs.

‘By itself, this project will not solve the crisis facing GP services, which are buckling across the country under pressure from rising patient demand, falling resources and staff shortages.

GP Forward View

‘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.’

RCGP chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard said: ‘We’re delighted that this scheme – which started as a joint initiative between us and colleagues at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society less than two years ago – is being rolled out more widely and will benefit even more GP practices and patients.

‘GPs are under intense workload pressures currently, and practice-based pharmacists are playing an increasingly vital role within some GP-led multi-disciplinary teams, carrying out tasks, such as medication reviews and managing repeat prescriptions. This helps cut waiting times for patients by freeing up GPs’ time for patients who really need our clinical expertise.

‘As one of the pledges in the GP Forward View, it’s encouraging to see that NHS England are starting to deliver. We need to ensure that the other pledges are delivered swiftly and effectively in the best interests of general practice and our patients.’

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