Until now the programme allowed practices to recruit one whole-time equivalent (WTE) pharmacist per 30,000 patients. Practices will now be able to recruit one WTE clinical pharmacist per 15,000 patients.
Under the programme, which was launched in April 2016 as part of the GP Forward View, NHS England provides funding towards the costs of recruitment and employment of the pharmacists tapered over a three-year period.
Pharmacists employed under the scheme will also now be able to work part time at 0.5 WTE, whereas previously they had to commit to working at least 0.8 WTE.
NHS England said that the changes would make it easier for sites to operate across a smaller population size. The deadline for the next wave of applications is 23 November and applications for a following wave close on 22 February 2019.
There are currently 810 whole-time equivalent (WTE) clinical pharmacists working in general practice under the scheme, covering 1,834 practices and 15m patients. NHS England is aiming to have almost 2,000 clinical pharmacists in general practice by 202/0/21.
Writing about the benefits of the scheme in a blog, NHS England’s deputy chief pharmaceutical officer Dr Bruce Warner said the change in the application criteria was good news for patients and GPs.
‘The relaxation of the criteria for the clinical pharmacy programme aims to spread the net wider so many more GP practices can reap these benefits and more pharmacists can take up what is a really satisfying career choice,’ he said.
‘We know that clinical pharmacists provide a valuable service for patients and contribute greatly to the smooth running of practices. What we need now is for more practices to take up the scheme; the end goal being more patients and GPs benefiting from the introduction of the pharmacy and medicines expertise which has been firmly established as a significant element of the general practice team.’
An NHS England-funded independent evaluation of the programme, published earlier this year, found that clinical pharmacists made ‘a unique and valuable contribution to the primary care skill mix’.
The researchers found employing pharmacists in general practice can lead to greater capacity, reduced workload for GPs, medicinal optimisation and improved patient care.