Joint GP-pharmacy work could end cancer deaths in people under 80

Collaboration between GP practices and community pharmacies could help eliminate deaths from cancer in people under 80 by 2050, according to a report.

Pharmacy: joint work with GPs can cut cancer (Photo: UNP)
Pharmacy: joint work with GPs can cut cancer (Photo: UNP)

The report suggests that deaths of people under 80 from cancer ‘could be eliminated by 2050’. Currently, 150,000 people a year die of the disease in the UK.

Alongside increasing the uptake of screening programmes, implementing advanced surgical techniques and improving late-stage treatments, the study authors recommended a closer alliance between GPs and pharmacists.

‘As well as supporting both good general practice and extended pharmaceutical care, we should be encouraging these groups to work together for optimum effect,’ Professor David Taylor, who led the research at the UCL School of Pharmacy, told GP.

Professor David Colin-Thomé, former DH national clinical director of primary care, told GP he agreed with this approach. ‘GPs and pharmacies need to be working together rather than in parallel,' he argued.

Blurring boundaries

Changing the way that general practices and pharmacies work together will ease pressure on GPs, and provide better support for patients at risk of cancer, Professor Colin-Thomé said.

‘There is a growing trend towards the use of pharmacists working within practices - in some cases, the pharmacist has been made an equal partner of the practice,’ he said.

In the case of cancer prevention, patients would be able to get advice from the pharmacist rather than making a GP appointment, he suggests. ‘At a time when general practice is very busy, it makes sense to employ a pharmacist to help give patients, particularly those over 50, easier access to aspirin or other preventative medicines.’

Blurring the borders between prescribing and dispensing medicines is also anticipated as more pharmacists become part of general practice.

‘There’s a role for less demarcation in terms of what general practices are dispensing, and there is also a case for pharmacists doing more diagnostic work,’ said Professor Taylor. ‘I think we can break down some of the boundaries between the diagnostic activities undertaken in general practice and those in community pharmacy.'

‘This is especially possible with the use of integrated records and IT tools that can support decision making in a way that wasn’t possible in the past,’ Professor Taylor added.

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