Exclusive: Fifth of GP practices could employ a pharmacist by 2016

Almost one in five GP practices could employ a pharmacist by next summer, a GPonline survey suggests.

Medicines: pharmacists could work in GP practices to help patients with multiple long-term conditions (Photo: UNP)
Medicines: pharmacists could work in GP practices to help patients with multiple long-term conditions (Photo: UNP)

Just under one in 10 (9%) GPs say their practice currently employs a pharmacist, and a further 9% say they plan to hire one in the next 12 months.

The findings come just weeks after a landmark report by a GP workforce commission concluded that wider skill mix in primary care was vital to ease pressure on general practice.

The RCGP called earlier this year for GP practices to employ 'an army of pharmacists', to help existing primary care staff manage the rising number of patients taking multiple medicines for a range of long-term conditions.

Changing the primary care skill mix

The government is also pushing for wider use of physician associates in primary care, with around 400 a year set to qualify from UK medical schools from 2018.

The GPonline poll found that 2% of GP practices currently employ a physician associate, and 3% hope to employ one next year.

Opinions from respondents varied widely on the value of employing either pharmacists or physician associates, however.

Impact on GP workload

One respondent said: 'Pointless! These options will not decrease GP workload - more GPs are needed.'

Another said: 'Apothecaries in general practice was a substandard affair which was phased out in the 19th century. It is still a silly idea. MRCGP has been established as the minimum standard; why establish a minimum standard then look for something below that?'

But others said they would employ staff from either of these groups if they had the funding. Some of those who did employ pharmacists or physician associates called them 'indispensable', or 'an essential part of general practice of the future'.

Others said they would consider advanced nurse practitioners ahead of physician associates because they were 'more experienced'.

Visit Medeconomics for advice on how to employ a pharmacist in your practice

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