Is pharmacy's central role in the new GP contract really such a positive for pharmacy, ponders our GP blogger Dr Livingstone

Apologies if you feel like you’ve read this blog before. You haven’t. But it does share some similarities with my last contribution about the NHS long term plan – a document in which, as I pointed out, the word ‘pharmacist’ appeared no fewer than 24 times.

Hot on its heels comes another 100+ page blockbuster – this time, the new GP contract document, ‘Investment and Evolution’. The NHS Long Term Plan was the ‘what’. Whereas ‘Investment and Evolution’ is the ‘how’. And ‘how’ would appear to be, ‘by employing pharmacists’, among other staff. Because, this time, you get an unprecedented 49 mentions. That’s how important you are in the brave new world of primary care networks.

It seems that you, along with social prescribing link workers, physician associates, physiotherapists and community paramedics, are going to plug those gaps in the GP workforce – gaps which the Government has explicitly acknowledged can’t be filled by GPs themselves. Because there aren’t any.

And to show how serious NHS England is about this plan, it’s dangling the carrot of funding your employment in the all-new primary care networks to the tune of 70%, indefinitely (cue some rapidly spoken small-print terms and conditions, which I won’t bore you with).

I’m assuming you’re OK with this? With the fact that your new job description is as carefully prescribed as the average FP10? And that, on behalf of the network, you’ll spend your time on medicines optimisation and safety, supporting care homes and running practice clinics? And that you’ll be patient-facing and either prescribing or training to do so? And that you’re merely pawns in General Practitioners Committee England’s long term ambition for every practice to benefit from having a pharmacist?

I mean, this has been shared, discussed and agreed with you, right? And you’re trained, and happy, and motivated to be so-called doctors-on-the-cheap?

Excellent. That’s all right then. So, the Government invests. You evolve. And we networking GPs cross our fingers and hope for the best.