More than 200 additional pharmacists will be recruited shortly to work in GP practices as the nationwide roll-out of a pilot scheme gets under way.
The places – which were announced in the General Practice Five Year Forward View and reiterated in last month’s ‘next steps’ document — will see the current 491 pharmacists in the pilot scheme joined by 800 others by 2019, with 700 more joining in the following two years. The clinical roles are part-funded by NHS England for three years, with support tapered from 60% of the cost initially down to 20% in the third year.
NHS England has announced 45 successful bidders for the first stage of the roll-out. They are generally groups of practices or GP federations, and will have 219 pharmacists working across 700 practices covering up to 6 million people.
Robbie Turner, director for England at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, says the scheme seems to be meeting the needs of all sides. “We have seen fantastic stories of how this new role for pharmacists has really improved patient care and that gives us great confidence that there is long-term sustainability for these roles,” he says. Some pharmacists were being employed by GPs outside the scheme, which showed how GPs valued the work they could do, he adds.
“Pharmacists have unique skills that they can bring to a practice and where those skills are utilised we know they will be valued,” he said. “We need to ensure that pharmacists employed in these roles continue to have support mechanisms to enable them to develop their clinical skills moving forward.”
Arvind Madan, director of primary care at NHS England, says: “The clinical pharmacists programme is a clear win-win for patients and GPs. The pilots have shown GP workload to be eased, while patients have the convenience of being seen by the right professional in a more timely way. The expansion of the programme is great news for everyone.”
The expansion of roles for pharmacists in GP practices, seen as one of the more successful recent initiatives in primary care, follows a campaign started by the Royal College of General Practitioners and the Royal Pharmaceutical Society in March 2015.