I registered as a pharmacist in 2003 and my background has been a mixture of community pharmacy, hospital pharmacy and primary care. I started working as GP practice pharmacist prior to the NHS England pilot although the GP practice that I work in is currently part of the pilot.
I am the point of contact for local community pharmacies regarding any patient related or general queries that they may have. We have an on-site community pharmacy as well as approximately five community pharmacies locally that the majority of our patients use for pharmacy services.
My top 5 tips for a new GP pharmacist to make sure they get off to a great start with local community pharmacists:
1. Introduce yourself and your role. Find out who the regular pharmacists are so you have a point of contact. Discuss with them what your role at the surgery entails.
2. Be accessible. Let them know your working hours and how you can be contacted. If the surgery has a bypass telephone number share this with them.
3. Invite the community pharmacist to the surgery/go and spend some time with them. This is a brilliant ice-breaker. Introduce them to the rest of the team and explain who does what. It will help them to understand processes better, for example, the process used to generate a repeat prescription. If you have not worked in a community pharmacy setting you should ask to spend some time at one of your local pharmacies to see what they do.
4. Find out what the pharmacy’s priorities are and what problems (if any) they have faced historically with the surgery. This is really helpful as the surgery may not be aware of any issues that the community pharmacy is experiencing such as with the repeat prescribing process or communication between the two.
5. Don’t keep the information to yourself. Share any information with the multidisciplinary team at the surgery e.g. who to contact at the pharmacy, what services they offer so that patients can be sign posted appropriately, current medication stock shortages and what the alternatives are.
My experience of how working with community pharmacists has benefitted the GP practice and patient care:
Communication: For me, the most important aspect is communication. This means communicating with them and vice versa. When this goes right, everything else falls into place. I have an open door policy when I am not seeing patients for our on-site community pharmacy staff. For other local pharmacies, they may contact me by email (if they have an nhs.net email account)/fax or telephone.
Medicines optimisation: A key part of medicines optimisation is counselling patients on how to take their medicines, explaining the role of the medication and discussing potential side-effects. When a patient starts a new medication, we talk to them about these things. We also highlight these patients to our local community pharmacists for them to do this too. This re-enforces the information and allows the patient to clarify or ask further questions. Community pharmacists also highlight patients to me who may be having difficulties with their medication, e.g. side-effects, problems taking them. We work together to help patients to resolve these problems. This has resulted in better management of symptoms/conditions for patients.
Transfer of care: Another way we work really well together is during transfer of care of patients from one care setting to another. Patients that have recently been discharged from hospital are often highlighted to me by local pharmacies, particularly those receiving medication in a compliance aid. This has allowed me to liaise with the patient regarding medication changes and with the pharmacies to ensure that the patient understands any medication changes, has a continued supply of medication and that any monitoring required post-discharge is completed.
Electronic prescription service: Working with the local community pharmacies when the surgery went live with the electronic prescription service has benefitted the surgery immensely. Several community pharmacists were involved during the planning stages of our ‘go live’ date. Processes were discussed and solutions to potential problems sought before we went live. This lead to a successful launch of the service with very few problems from the surgery or patients.
In my view, community pharmacists should be an integral part of the multidisciplinary general practice team and we are working extremely hard locally to make this a reality.