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Praising practice pharmacists is all well and good – but GPs must also recognise the value of independents

By Beth Kennedy

09 Aug 2018

It’s all very well that GP leaders are calling for extended funding of the successful practice pharmacist scheme. But it would be nice to see them give the same support to pharmacists in the community, says The Pharmacist’s editor Beth Kennedy


So it’s official. GPs have declared the GP Forward View’s practice pharmacist scheme a resounding success, with the majority of practices involved saying they will continue to employ their pharmacist after the three-year scheme ends and the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) calling for the funding of it to be extended.


Even The Pharmacist’s curmudgeonly GP blogger Dr Livingstone has been impressed with how practice pharmacists have fared, despite admitting to being ‘far from convinced’ about the idea when the scheme was first introduced.


And that’s great, really it is. After all, close working between GP and pharmacists can only be a good thing for patients and continuity of care.


But there is one little thing that’s niggling at me and that’s how eye-rollingly frustrating it is that GPs are all too happy to ask for funding that benefits pharmacists when it suits them, but remain all-too quiet when their support could really benefit the wider pharmacy sector.


Take the Government’s cuts to community pharmacy funding. While pharmacy bodies, politicians and the public threw their support behind trying to overturn the often devastating effects of the funding cuts, there was a palpable silence from GP lobbying bodies. Given the comparative influence of GP organisation versus pharmacy bodies, tangible support from GPs may well have made all the difference.


But it’s not just the lack of support that’s irritating; there have been times where GP organisations have actively undermined community pharmacists’ contribution. One fairly recent example came after NHS England launched its Stay Well Pharmacy campaign back in February, which directed patients towards their local pharmacy rather than visiting the GP or A&E for self-treatable conditions such as tummy upsets.


Apparently not content with pharmacy receiving the recognition it deserves for its ability to treat minor ailments services, the RCGP released a rather unhelpful statement reminding patients that pharmacists ‘are not GPs’ and urged parents to ‘seek expert medical assistance…where genuinely unsure’ about the seriousness of their children’s condition.


All pharmacists deserve recognition from GPs – not just those doing undeniably important work in practices. After all, without community pharmacists there to take the lead on advising patients on self-limiting conditions, GP practices would be under even more strain than they are with the weight of unnecessary appointments.


So come on, GPs. It’s time to pull your socks up and show community pharmacists the respect and support they have so clearly earned.

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