NHS England have announced a £112m investment in new roles for pharmacists in general practice as part of a wider initiative to improve primary care for patients today. They have committed to enable every practice in England to access a pharmacist across a minimum population on average of 30,000 - leading to an extra 1,500 pharmacists in general practice over the next 5 years.
This investment is on top of the existing £31m investment by NHS England to co-fund around 450 pharmacist roles in general practice. NHS England have stated that “appetite for the original pilot scheme was high.” Although there is more to learn from the evaluation, early indications suggest surgery based pharmacists may have a role in streamlining practice prescription processes, medicines optimisation, minor ailments and long term conditions management. Pharmacists in GP surgeries will be able to support better working between GP’s, hospital pharmacists and community pharmacists and the transfer of patient care.
NHS England have committed to roll this out further across the country over the next five years, so that every practice can benefit from the clinical skills of a pharmacist. Importantly NHS England will also open up the pharmacist training programme for practice based pharmacists to practices that have directly funded a pharmacist themselves.
Commenting on the announcement Sandra Gidley, RPS England Board Chair said:
“It was only just over a year ago we began a campaign with the Royal College of GPs to ensure every GP practice had access to a pharmacist as part of the practice team.
“Sometimes I am challenged as to how effective the RPS is in achieving the ambitions we have for the profession. I would hope today’s announcement will leave no doubt that we are an organisation that can deliver real and lasting improvements for the profession and patient care.
“The creation of around 2,000 new jobs for pharmacists, in an era of austerity where value must be proven rather than assumed, shows a strong commitment to the profession from the very top of NHS England. GPs want to work alongside pharmacists, for pharmacists to be part of the team, alongside nurses, mental health workers and others. I know that many pharmacists, from all sectors, want this too - and now there is an opportunity for many more pharmacists to consider this option alongside more established roles.
“I would encourage pharmacists to investigate this career opportunity, we will be making sure support and development is provided through the RPS Faculty and our direct support services. We look forward to working with RCGP, NHS England National Association of Primary Care and NHS Clinical Commissioners to step up actions to grow the pharmacy workforce and stimulate a more diverse range of workforce models within primary care “
With the GP Forward View, NHS England have also re-confirmed their intention to introduce a Pharmacy Integration Fund, worth £20 million in 2016/17 and rising by a further £20 million each year, to help further transform how pharmacists, their teams and community pharmacy work as part of wider NHS services in their area.
NHS England are consulting on proposals for the use of the "Pharmacy Integration Fund" through the community pharmacy reform programme. We have been clear in our submission to NHS England that the "Pharmacy Integration Fund" should not be used to directly employ pharmacists in GP surgeries.
Sandra Gidley adds:
“Let me be 100% clear, the RPS believes that when it comes to pharmacists working in GP surgeries and pharmacists working in community pharmacies it is a case of “more, and” not “either, or”.
“There is recognition in this document of the massive role community pharmacy has in providing support for minor ailments, self-care and health promotion advice to the public. What is needed now is a detailed plan of how the role of community pharmacy can be further enhanced.
“The RPS is committed to working with community pharmacy owners, employees and locums to create a sustainable future for the sector. We are in a time of rapid change, with much uncertainty, we are unwavering in our believe we can improve patient care through better access to high quality care, advice and access to medicines through community pharmacy.
“Now is the time to shape and create proposals that meet the aims of the NHS and patients, looking positively, and making the case for investment in better patient care through community pharmacy. We are working with pharmacy trade bodies as well as Government and patient groups to do everything we can to make this happen.”
Find out more about working as a practice pharmacist in our dedicated ultimate guide for pharmacists working in GP practices »