Better use of pharmacy could ease GP workload crisis

The NHS should make better use of pharmacy in primary care to ease pressure on general practice and help tackle the workforce crisis, a report has warned.

Pharmacy: pharmacists could ease pressure on GPs (Photo: UNP)
Pharmacy: pharmacists could ease pressure on GPs (Photo: UNP)

A roundtable discussion between GPs, pharmacists and patient representatives held by NHS Alliance and the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS), concluded that the skills and value pharmacists working in general practice could offer, in medicines and analytics, were often poorly understood and little-publicised.

It called for more shared education for GPs and pharmacists to develop the role of pharmacy in primary care.

Medicines, pharmacy and medicines optimisation lead at the NHS Alliance Mark Robinson said: ‘Primary care is facing an immediate crisis with up to 500 GP practices at risk of closure due to an ageing workforce, as well as recruitment and retention issues.

‘The roundtable clearly showed that pharmacists can help offer a practical and timely solution, filling the workforce gap and reducing pressures on general practice. And, in the cases where pharmacists have already been integrated into general practice, they have helped to drive significant improvements in care provision and working patterns.’

The report concluded:

  • The value of pharmacists working in general practice needs to be defined and promoted and simple business case templates developed.  
  • There is a need to create a clear career pathway for pharmacists and general practice. 
  • There should be recognised training pathways for pharmacists and general practice and development and educational opportunities shared with GPs and practice nurses
  • Pharmacists could play an increasing specialist role in primary care as reforms lead to more complex care being delivered in primary care
  • Using pharmacists in primary care is an important part of the solution, however we need to look at using pharmacists to deliver better care for long-term conditions at scale, working over the health economy. Some initiatives will work best at scale; others at practice level: we need to recognise this variability.

RPS England pharmacy board chairman David Branford said: ‘The skill set of pharmacists and their focus on medicines is very complimentary to those of GPs. The RPS has advocated closer working, and pharmacists becoming an integral part of the GP team, for many years, and the model advocated by NHS Alliance of the pharmacist being a part of and working in the GP practice is one of a range of models that enable that.’

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