GPs urged to redirect more work to pharmacies to ease workload

GPs should direct patients to community pharmacists for on-going care after an initial diagnosis, to help reduce their workload and make better use of pharmacies, according to an NHS Alliance report.

The Supporting the Development of Community Pharmacy Practice within Primary Care report calls for community pharmacy to receive its own version of the GP Forward View to help develop its role.

The report suggests that GPs and pharmacists should work as ‘partners in delivery’ to treat patients in a more collaborative manner.

Patients with conditions such irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) could be identified by GPs and sent to a pharmacist to receive an agreed treatment plan to help free up time for overworked GPs, it said.

The solution to improving IBS care and reducing hospital admissions lies in building services within community pharmacy, not general practice, according to the report. This development will ‘change GP perspective from looking to hospital for solutions to looking to community pharmacy’.

‘It shouldn’t mean that if a GP makes a diagnosis in certain conditions the patients’ needs to be followed up within the GP practice,’ the report says.

‘The GP should be able to refer the patient to the community pharmacy for follow up care and implementation of a treatment pathway.

Community pharmacy role

‘Many patients present to both community pharmacy and general practice with mild to moderate pain that is treated adequately with simple analgesics and helpful advice.

‘Most of these patients could be adequately managed in the pharmacy, reducing the need for GP appointments until treatment escalation or a further intervention seems likely.

‘The pharmacy would operate under an agreed treatment protocol that supports escalation of treatment and even might include a private Patient Group Direction (PGD) to support access to Prescription Only Medicines (POMs).’

It also recommends that GPs should help support a culture change so that patients think to visit a pharmacist as their first port of call for acute self-limiting conditions and minor ailments.

GPs, it adds, should start to determine which elements of holistic care can be identified as self-care opportunities for delivery within a community pharmacy.

These actions could help alleviate pressure on GP practices and improve access to care for patients, the report says.

Dr Mark Spencer, co-chair of the NHS Alliance said: ‘New NHS Alliance is disappointed that there is not a community pharmacy led new model of care and that the NHS has failed to fully utilise the expertise of the community pharmacist within their locations in the heart of many communities.

‘We must recognise community pharmacy as a professional clinical retail healthcare environment and as an integral member of the primary care team. We must also recognise the pharmacy’s unique position within the community and their ability to reduce demand within general practice as part of the solution to the crisis within general practice.’

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