How pharmacists are working in GP practice teams in Devon

RPS logoBy David Bearman, Local Professional Network (pharmacy) Chair for Devon

What is happening in your locality? 

The Local Professional Network have been considering for some time how to best participate in the changing NHS. Looking forward we appear to be moving into a very different world, one in which collaboration across a number of providers to meet the needs of the population is the order of the day. For some time community pharmacy has felt affiliated to the NHS but perhaps not central to delivery of NHS services.In Devon we want to move pharmacy into the core of the health system but to do this we need to build trust and bridges. We have been flexible, not only seeing community pharmacy as the only setting where pharmacists can practice. We have to view it from the perspective of the patient and the broader system that suggests that it’s right to use pharmacists skills as clinicians and to improve medicines optimisation in other settings too. For some patients the best setting for care may be the community pharmacy but for others it may be their care should take place in a GP practice.

We know the lack of GPs locally is reaching a critical point and that pharmacy has a key role to play in the resolution. The response to this in some GP practices in Devon is to bolster their teams with pharmacists but we recognise this is not sufficient. To alleviate the pressures we need to engage the broader pharmacy population, use this as an opportunity to change working practices and provide integrated solutions to significantly alter system capacity.

Why do you think pharmacists in GP surgeries will benefit community pharmacy? 

Our experience in Devon is that GPs quickly recognise the value of the pharmacist and start to use the pharmacists to improve the quality of care. This really changes the perception of what pharmacists can do and opens up the conversation with community pharmacists to new opportunities for collaborative working. Patient care has been improved due to the interface between the community pharmacy and the practice pharmacist. GPs historically had two major concerns about working with community pharmacy; competency and capacity. Where practice pharmacists exist the former concern has largely disappeared. We still have some challenges on the second even with the “pharmacist excess”.

This approach also fits well with models of care that ask groups of providers, such as GP surgeries and community pharmacies, to work together to maximise health gains.

We are convinced locally that the move towards pharmacists in practice can be viewed as an opportunity to drive collaboration, if it is embraced and used as a vehicle for wider system change. It then will offer us an opportunity to redefine the role of community pharmacy in providing a greater range of solutions for our patients.