Around £7.5m from the primary care infrastructure fund will be used to support community pharmacists with training to help GPs in England deliver a seven-day-a-week service, health secretary Jeremy Hunt announced on 19 June 2015.
The aim of the fund, which is worth £1bn over four years and was announced in 2014, is to accelerate improvements in GP premises and infrastructure such as information technology.
In a speech made at a GP practice in South West London, Hunt promised a new deal for GPs if they sign up to his vision of a seven-day service. This would include at least 10,000 extra primary care staff, including 5,000 GPs, practice nurses, district nurses, physician associates and pharmacists.
Hunt said 18 million people will benefit from improved access to GPs, including evenings and weekends, by March 2016 as a result of the Prime Minister’s Challenge Fund — a £50m fund announced in 2013 that aims to improve access to general practice and primary care services. This will then roll out to the rest of the country, although not every surgery will be expected to open in the evenings or at weekends.
Some GP practices pilots have already turned to pharmacies for support to help deliver a seven-day service, Hunt said. “In Brighton, 16 GP practices are working with local pharmacies to create four ‘primary care clusters’, offering evening and weekend appointments with a GP or pharmacist and giving the pharmacist equal access to GP records.”
Jonathan Serjeant, a GP from Brighton, said that the pilot has been a “fantastic opportunity for practices to learn to work together… reaching out into their community to work with pharmacists to design, and provide care for people” and “help us understand how to offer more for people in more locations with a different skill mix”.
Meanwhile, the Welsh Government has announced a £34m investment in primary care services to help provide healthcare 24 hours a day closer to people’s homes. The money will help recruitment and training of advanced nurses, clinical pharmacists and therapists to work alongside GPs as part of a joined-up primary care team.
The majority of the Welsh funding — more than £23m — will go directly to health boards and Public Health Wales to implement local primary care plans, improving access to GP services and moving care out of hospitals and into the community.
More than £5m will be invested in 19 specific projects; in one, pharmacists in Cwm Taf University Health Board will work closely with communities on an innovative ‘Your Medicines Your Health’ initiative to improve individuals’ medicines management.