NHS England is considering whether to introduce measures to incentivise GP practices to employ pharmacists in their surgeries, potentially using a share of a £10m package aimed at strengthening the general practice workforce.
The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) and the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) have met with NHS England officials to discuss how to stimulate a national roll-out of the proposals for more pharmacists to work in GP practices, unveiled on 17 March 2015.
Speaking at The King’s Fund, where the two organisations launched the drive for practice-based pharmacists, RCGP chairwoman Maureen Baker revealed that discussions had taken place and had yet to conclude.
“We in the RCGP have been in active discussion with NHS England to consider the positive opportunities that rolling out the practice-based pharmacy model can deliver,” she said. “We welcome the support that NHS England have expressed for this concept and we hope to see it translated into practical measures to incentivise the employment of practice-based pharmacists shortly.”
When asked whether practices could afford to hire pharmacists in a climate of stretched resources in primary care, Baker says: “I do think it will vary between practices. I’m sure there will be practices who would love to have a pharmacist who can’t afford one.
“What we’re very much hoping is that there will be some help from NHS England under the ‘Building the workforce – the new deal for general practice’ initiative that will try and ease the way.”
Asked about the possible incentives, she adds: “It is something they [NHS England] are considering; we are having discussions, we haven’t reached the end of those discussions.”
NHS England’s ‘Building the workforce’ initiative includes a £10m investment that aims to retain and recruit GPs, whose numbers have been falling in recent years.
A joint statement from the RPS and RCGP on their proposal, published on 17 March 2015, said: “Further work needs to be carried out to establish what levers and incentives may be appropriate in order to expedite the changes described above. These should be applicable at various levels as appropriate, including individual pharmacy and practice level, local professional group level, and national level.”
NHS England declined to answer questions from The Pharmaceutical Journal about these discussions. Instead, a spokesperson says: “NHS England welcomes these ideas which complement the ten-point GP workforce action plan published in January 2015.”