Clinical pharmacy scheme set to benefit patients across England

NHS England is today launching a scheme to get 1,500 more clinical pharmacists working in GP surgeries – a move set to benefit patients across the country.

Clinical pharmacists are highly trained experts in disease and medication that can work as part of the general practice team to provide specialist advice for patients, particularly the elderly and those with multiple conditions.

By taking responsibility for patients with chronic diseases, clinical pharmacists can free up GPs for other appointments and so reducing the numbers of people presenting at A&E departments. They will work closely with community and hospital pharmacists to provide joined-up NHS pharmacy services for patients and so ease pressures on other parts of the health service.

Today NHS England is publishing guidance to help with the next round of applications, following a successful pilot which has already seen over 490 more clinical pharmacists working in GP surgeries.

The initial £15m pilot, supported by Health Education England, the RCGP and the BMA, has proved so popular with patients and GP practices that NHS England doubled the funding to £31m in November 2015. This led to more than 490 clinical pharmacists working in approximately 650 practices across 90 pilot sites.

Applications for this next phase, worth over £100m, open next month as NHS England and its partners target a further 1,500 clinical pharmacists working in general practice by 2020/21, a commitment set out in the General Practice Forward View.

One patient to benefit from the pilots is 63-year-old Philip from Stratford in East London. He said: “I now see the clinical pharmacist in my GP surgery throughout the year and now only need to see the GP now once a year for my health MOT.

“The way clinical pharmacists in general practice can help patients and support them is so important and helps prevent more serious illness.”

This scheme follows the announcement of a range of other measures introduced to recruit and retain GPs and expand the workforce. These have included a new Induction and Refresher Scheme, GP Trainee Recruitment Campaign and a salary supplement for hard to recruit GP training places.

Simon Stevens, NHS England Chief Executive, said: “For patients with long term conditions like diabetes or high blood pressure, regularly reviewing your medicines with a pharmacist can cut side-effects and improve the effectiveness of treatment.

“So in 2017 the NHS is going to expand the services on offer in GP surgeries to include clinical pharmacists, which will also free up GPs to spend more time with the patients who need their care.”

Keith Ridge, Chief Pharmaceutical Officer for England, said: “The success of the initial pilots has shown the benefits of having more clinical pharmacists in general practice, reducing GP workload and helping ensure patients are seen by the right professional in a more convenient and timely way.

Sandra Gidley, Royal Pharmaceutical Society England Board Chair said: “When we set out our shared vision with RCGP that every GP practice should have access to the expertise of a pharmacist, we were delighted with the response from the profession, GP’s, patient groups and NHS England. Today’s announcement of a £112M investment is an important and significant step in achieving that aim.

“We are delighted that GP based pharmacists will be focused on joining up care across traditional boundaries between community pharmacy, hospital and other care settings.”

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, Chair of the RCGP, said: “We’re delighted that this scheme – which started as a joint initiative between us and colleagues at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society– is being rolled out more widely and will benefit even more GP practices and patients.

“GPs are under intense workload pressures currently, and practice-based pharmacists are playing an increasingly vital role within some GP-led multi-disciplinary teams, carrying out tasks, such as medication reviews and managing repeat prescriptions. This helps cut waiting times for patients by freeing up GPs’ time for patients who really need our clinical expertise.”