Pharmacist prescriber pilots 'undermine' general practice

Independent prescriber pharmacists are being assigned to GP surgeries, despite GPC protests that the move threatens the future of general practice.

GP practices in Hampshire are among the first in the country to be using independent prescriber pharmacists.

Stephen Inns, pharmacist and lecturer at the University of Portsmouth, has been running two four-hour hypertension clinics a week since qualifying as an independent prescriber in November.

The clinic treats around 1,800 patients at the Bishops Waltham surgery in south Hampshire, which has a list size of 13,500. One other pilot is operating in Southampton.

'I'm working for a PCT and the GP practice is paying the trust for my time while I'm in clinic,' he said.

The cost is around £60,000 pro rata, said Mr Inns. In contrast, a qualified nurse earns a basic annual salary of £26,100 and a GP £110,000, according to figures from the Information Centre.

'The GPs are gradually recognising the potential for this particular service,' said Mr Inns.

'We're probably in a good position to manage patients not just in one clinical disease area, because nurses do at the moment, but we can manage patients with multiple comorbidities.'

Mr Inns plans to evaluate the effectiveness of independent prescriber pharmacists in March 2008.

But Dr Peter Fellows, member of the GPC prescribing subcommittee and Gloucestershire GP, said: 'The DoH is trying to use all sorts of means to obtain cheap GPs.

'We are worried about this development and its threat to general practice.

'Pharmacists do have a wide-ranging training in drugs across the board, but they don't have the associated clinical knowledge of doctors,' he added.

'The government hasn't listened to the GPC and has allowed all independent prescribers to prescribe from the British National Formulary and I think that could be dangerous.'

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