Community pharmacists must be able to routinely prescribe medicines for people with long term conditions and refer them directly to other healthcare professionals to ease the overwhelming demand facing the NHS says the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) in a new report to be launched at the House of Commons tomorrow.
One in three people in England (15 million) have a long term condition , such as such as diabetes or asthma, and this is set to rise to at least 18 million people by 2025 . Their care currently accounts for 50% of all GP appointments, 64% of all outpatient appointments 70% of all health and social care spending.
The average health and social care cost per person per year rises with the number of long term conditions they have, from just over £1,000 for someone without a condition, to around £3,000 for someone with one condition and up to nearly £8,000 for someone living with three or more long term conditions.
The RPS is calling for a change in policy regarding the training of prescribers to enable more pharmacists to become prescribers. This means they could take on the management of patients whose condition is stable but require regular monitoring and alteration of their medicines to stay well, so keeping them out of hospital or GP surgeries.
A new Cochrane Review
has shown that prescribers who aren’t doctors are as effective as regular medical prescribers. Just 6% (3,319) of the total number of 54,500 registered pharmacists are currently prescribers.
Sandra Gidley, Chair of RPS England said: “The double whammy of an ageing population and the associated increase in the number of people living with one or more long term conditions is pushing the NHS to crisis point. To cope with this demand we need a radical reform of how care is provided to this group of patients and the time has come for the Government to enable this to happen.
To help speed up the care of those who need more complex care, the organisation is also calling for pharmacists to be able to refer directly to other healthcare professionals such as physiotherapists or hospital consultants, rather than having to advise patients to go back to their GP for a further appointment and referral which inevitably means patients wait longer to be treated.
Sandra Gidley said: “We can’t continue with the current model which doesn’t serve patients well and puts GPs under intolerable pressure dealing with patients who could be treated by pharmacists with the right training. Medicine are central to the care of people with long term conditions and there are some fantastic innovative services out there run by pharmacists which should be the norm so that all patients can benefit from them, not just the lucky few.
“Unless we change the way we care for people with long term conditions projections show that demand will become unmanageable. Neither the NHS nor patients can afford to wait any longer to create capacity in the system. Our proposals mean pharmacists working with GPs, hospital doctors, nurses and patients to make sure the profession plays a role in taking on the challenges and improving the care of people with long term conditions.”
Chief Executive of the Patients Association Katherine Murphy said: “It is so important that patients have quick and easy access to care. Being able to speak to a local pharmacist could mean that patients are able to access the right care closer to home or their workplace; completely removing the challenges of booking an appointment with a GP, cutting out waiting times and taking out the worry for many patients who get anxious visiting a surgery.
“The Patients Association warmly welcome pharmacists becoming trained prescribers, not just because it will take pressure off GP surgeries meaning a better service for patients who need to see their GP, but also because it is a better for patients who don’t need to see their GP. It is a win-win situation for patients.”
Listen to Sandra Gidley talking about the campaign on BBC Radio 4's Today programme: