Today, Simon Stevens, NHS England chief executive, launched a £15m scheme to fund, recruit and employ clinical pharmacists in GP surgeries, aiming to ease some of the current pressure on GPs.
The three-year initiative will go live this year, and the pharmacists will be employed directly by the general practice.
Stevens' scheme, said to be part of the New Deal, aims to ease GP workload, improve communication between general practice, hospitals and community pharmacists, and benefit patients. It will focus on areas where GPs are under the greatest pressure.
The NHS England chief executive said: “Tapping into the skills of clinical pharmacists should help expand care and relieve some of the pressure that GPs are clearly under. This isn’t a silver bullet but it is a practical and constructive contribution to the wider challenge.”
The pharmacist could provide clinical advice, develop bespoke medicine plans for specific patients, monitor patients with complex long-term conditions, and manage repeat prescription requests and medicine shortages, NHS England suggested.
Dr David Branford, former chair of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society English Board said: “Pharmacists working as part of the team in general practice can make a huge difference to both patients and clinical colleagues. Pharmacists can consult with and treat patients directly, relieving GPs of casework and enabling them to focus their skills where they are most needed, for example on diagnosing and treating patients with complex conditions.
"As part of the multidisciplinary team, pharmacists will also be able to advise other professionals about medicines, resolve problems with prescriptions and reduce prescribing errors,” he said.
Health Education England will be creating a comprehensive training programme to support the scheme.
Professor Ian Cumming, chief executive, Health Education England said:“The training programme will support the development of the clinical pharmacists in delivery of their face to face patient care and the wider role across the community. This programme will strengthen multi-professional teams in practices, which should help give support to GPs in their day-to-day work.”
The announcement is part of the New Deal for general practice, which Jeremy Hunt, secretary of state for health, announced on 16 June, and is the result of collaborative work with Royal College of General Practice, the BMA’s General Practice Committee, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society and Health Education England.