We need more pharmacists in the general practice team

Rena AminBy Rena Amin, Joint Associate Director Medicine Management, NHS Greenwich CCG

Having a pharmacist working as part of the team in a GP practice isn’t a brand new idea – I’ve been doing it for the last ten years. I have colleagues doing the same in pockets around the country but I hope it won’t be long before it’s seen as the norm.

People might be sceptical about seeing a pharmacist in a GP surgery. Why do we need pharmacists in GP practices? What would they do? And how would they benefit the patient?

This isn’t about opening a pharmacy within a practice.  It’s about using the expertise a pharmacist has in medicines to help patients get the most benefit from their medicines.

It’s becoming more common to wait for up to a week for a GP appointment. Rising demand from patients, partly caused by an increasingly elderly population with complex health needs, a reduction in students training as GPs, a shortfall in funding and plans for seven day working means general practice is in crisis.

Bring in a pharmacist and pressure can be relieved, while at the same time continuing to deliver high quality patient care- something which should always be our main priority.

Pharmacists are fully qualified for the job.  We train as clinicians for five years – one year less than a doctor, one year more than a nurse – and can step in and make a real difference to the care patients receive and the workload of our GP colleagues.

I manage patients with complex needs which removes a significant workload from our GPs in the practice. People with long term conditions, such as asthma or diabetes, particularly benefit from having a pharmacist to help them navigate the conflicting and confusing information they sometimes receive about their treatment as they move between hospital and community care.

I also liaise with hospitals, community pharmacists and community nursing teams to ensure seamless care for patients. Providing more integrated care gives me huge satisfaction and my patients are happy too.

For the practice itself, pharmacists can advise colleagues how to resolve problems with medicines, especially the high risk ones, sort out prescriptions from hospital and train our clinical and non-clinical colleagues in the practice.

Our practice has one of the lowest A&E attendances in the area, further demonstrating that our patients with long term conditions are keeping well thanks to our help, their own efforts and care they receive from the whole team.

It’s time for change on a larger scale.  Patients deserve the best care wherever they live and pharmacists, working with the general practice team, can provide it.