By Sandra Gidley, RPS English Pharmacy Board Chair
The announcement by NHS England of an initiative that will see an increased number of pharmacists working within GP practice teams should be wholly welcomed by the profession as recognition of the growing importance of pharmacy within primary health care.
The Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s English Pharmacy Board has campaigned hard for pharmacists to be part of GP practice teams. Our members, as health professionals, are committed to evolving practice developments that improve patient care. The positive impact of the contribution of pharmacists embedded within multidisciplinary GP practice teams should not be underestimated. The potential benefit to patients through better access to expert drug management advice and care has been much vaunted; as has the advice and help other professionals will receive about safe management of medicines and reducing the potential for prescribing errors. We also see a huge potential for these pharmacists to link with the community pharmacy network in order to maximise the value of community pharmacists.
But what has for obvious reasons been less publicised is the step up this initiative represents for all pharmacy and the greater recognition of the profession as a key part of person-focused, integrated primary health care. It is important to note that the English Pharmacy Board has been fighting to achieve this recognition, but this is not just about a single model of pharmacists working within GP practices. We want to see greater use of pharmacists across all health and care settings. We need to explore all potential new ways of joint working that optimise patient care. As there is a growing number of older people, many with multiple health conditions to manage, the role of community pharmacy is crucial.
This week’s announcement is a superb initiative but it is not a one size fits all solution. To meet the current and future challenges to the NHS there is a pressing need to explore similar community pharmacy based models of integrated working across both health and social care. The RPS is making it a priority to continue to listen to and collate the views of pharmacists, NHS stakeholders and patients and to gather evidence. This will enable us to inform politicians, civil servants and representatives of other professions that pharmacy has a bigger part to play in delivering better patient care across all health and social care settings.