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How practice pharmacists became indispensable to GPs

By Dr Livingstone

03 Aug 2018

I have to admit that I was far from convinced. After all, it seemed simply to be the coincidence of two crises – an acute on chronic lack of person-power in general practice and huge uncertainty around community pharmacy’s current role and future prospects – rather than any clear strategic plan.

Yet the clinical pharmacists in general practice pilot programme whereby pharmacists, salaries subsidised the Government, step into the GP front line, seems to have been a great success. That’s certainly the conclusion of a report on the scheme by researchers from the University of Nottingham.

True, there was the odd mismatch in expectations and the occasional unrealistic assumption. But overall, the pharmacists eased workload, optimised medications and ironed out discharge drug dysfunction to such an extent that everyone – doctors, patients and even the pharmacists themselves – were happy.

But what will happen when that subsidy runs out after year three? Could the arranged marriage honeymoon be over? Apparently not. Because, according to the report, ‘The majority of sites, at a practice level, are seeking to employ the pharmacist when the pilot scheme funding ends’. So, assuming GPs put their money where their mouths are, that has to be seen as a happy ending.

Or, rather, a beginning. After all, true success must surely be measured by most practices employing pharmacists so they become as much a standard part of the primary care team as practice managers or nurse practitioners. But the problem here is another coincidence of events: attention turning to those as yet uninvolved practices – who by definition must be sceptical of the process – at the same time as the pilot’s financial inducement evaporates.

Maybe it’s time for the Government to show that it really was a Grand Plan all along – by not only extending the subsidy, but increasing it until all parties realise that, while pharmacists used to dispense, they’re now indispensible.

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