In hospitals, it is standard practice for patients to be treated by a multi-disciplinary team that can draw on different areas of clinical expertise. With current and future shortfall in GP and nurse numbers, pharmacists are ideally placed to support their fellow professionals, relieve pressure in primary care, and improve the quality of patient care.
There are many good examples of innovative practice in primary care that integrate the skills of pharmacists as part of coordinated care to improve patient safety and outcomes whilst also reducing prescribing and downstream care costs. These are delivered in a number of ways, including an enhanced role for the pharmacist in a community pharmacy, arrangements for sessional working within surgeries or care homes, and also partnership with GP surgeries. Pharmacists working with GP practices are helping to develop key relationships in primary care, and encouraging greater collaboration with the community pharmacist network.
There needs to be action on this issue now; increasing numbers of people (around 27 million) are waiting one week or more to see their GP, and nine out of ten GPs say the workload has affected the quality of patient care.
We are recommending that:
- General Practitioners embrace the potential that pharmacists can bring to patient care
- Local commissioners include pharmacist expertise in all care pathways that use medicines, including the formal involvement of community pharmacists in local care pathways
- NHS England supports the spread of good practice and the dissemination of evidence which shows the benefits of pharmacist input in GP surgeries.
The RPS is delighted at the £31m pilot by NHS England funding 403 practice-based pharmacists working across 698 GP practices from 2016. There will be a combined patient population of 7.6m that will benefit from this pilot.
Further to this, the additional £112m investment for 1,500 practice-based pharmacists in the General Practice Forward View is a huge vote of confidence in the profession and the role it has to play in the General Practice workforce.
Greater use of pharmacists in primary care is one of the themes of the RPS’s Shaping Pharmacy for the Future work.