NHS England has announced that it is doubling the size of the pilot that will see pharmacists employed directly in GP practices following an “overwhelmingly positive response” from surgeries. The budget for the three-year initiative is being increased from £15m to £31m, which will pay for 403 pharmacists and involve 698 practices, it says.
“By testing these new ways of working across professional boundaries we are taking another step forward to relieving some of the pressure that GPs are clearly under and ensuring patients see the health professional that best suits their needs,” NHS England’s chief executive Simon Stevens says.
The announcement, made on 16 November 2015, was described as “fantastic news” by the chair of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s English Pharmacy Board Sandra Gidley. “It’s a real vote of confidence in the pharmacy profession and a huge step towards the integration of pharmacists into primary care.
“More patients will see first-hand the difference a practice pharmacist can make to their health and more GPs will come to regard them as an essential part of the multidisciplinary team in their practice.”
Maureen Baker, chair of the Royal College of GPs (RCGP), says feedback received from RCGP members who already have a practice-based pharmacist suggests they play an invaluable role. “So we are pleased that NHS England has taken the idea so seriously and has so swiftly brought it to fruition.”
The announcement comes on the same day that NHS England was due to reveal the first 73 applications that will receive a share of the £31m. The pilot, first announced in July 2015, originally involved a maximum of 250 pharmacists.
The first pharmacists will begin working under the scheme in spring 2016.