More clinical pharmacists set to boost GP services for patients and practices

Nearly 34 million patients will benefit from improved GP services as NHS England boosts the number of surgery-based clinical pharmacists who can offer clinical medicines reviews and treatment.

The NHS England scheme has proved popular with both patients and GP practices and today’s announcement approves funding for 168 more pharmacists, meaning 1,170 pharmacists in total will be in post by March 2018, covering 3,221 practices. A total of 583 clinical pharmacists are already in post across the country.

The Midlands and East of England region has secured funding for 73 more clinical pharmacists working in 280 GP practices for patients. This brings the total to over 190 clinical pharmacists expected to be working in GP practices in the region in 2018 covering a population of nearly 6 million patients.

Clinical pharmacists work as part of the multi-disciplinary general practice team using their expert knowledge of medicines to clinically assess and treat patients. Some are also able to prescribe and more are being trained so that eventually all will be independent prescribers.

This includes help to manage care for people with long-term conditions, such as high blood pressure, earlier and more effectively to prevent diseases such as cardiovascular disease; advice on medicines and providing NHS health checks.

Dr Mark Sanderson, Deputy Regional Medical Director for Midlands and East, said: “The clinical pharmacist programme has proven to be hugely popular with practices, patients and pharmacists themselves.

“Clinical pharmacists are a great addition to any surgery team, helping GPs to focus on the patients with more complex issues that really need a doctor’s attention. They are highly trained experts who can provide much needed support, including helping patients to manage long term conditions likes hypertension and diabetes, carrying out medication reviews and managing repeat prescriptions.”

Clinical pharmacists also undertake medicines reviews to proactively manage people who are taking multiple medicines, especially older people and those in residential care homes. They also provide leadership on improving outcomes and value from medicines, including ensuring prescribers in the practice conserve antibiotics in line with local antimicrobial stewardship guidance.

It is part of a wider approach to improving outcomes and value from medicines across the NHS, making sure prescribers and patients can have confidence that they are consistently using medicines in a way that gives the best possible health outcomes.

NHS England is now encouraging applications to the next wave of the scheme from across the country by 19 January 2018.

The increase in pharmacists in general practice is part of a wider expansion of the general practice workforce so that patients have better local access to a range of highly trained health professionals, for their needs.

NHS England, Health Education England, the Royal College of General Practitioners and the British Medical Association’s GP Committee are working with the Royal Pharmaceutical Society to support the programme roll out.