Increasing the number of practice pharmacists to around 4,000 over the next five years could reduce the demand for GPs by 1,600, think tanks have said.
There are currently approximately 900 practice full-time pharmacists in England but increasing this number by 3,100 by 2023/24 would lessen the need to recruit new GPs, according to a report by the King’s Fund, the Nuffield Trust and the Health Foundation.
The move would also give patients ‘greater access to the specialist skills of pharmacists’, the report, published yesterday (20 March) said, meaning pharmacists will ‘increasingly become a core part of the general practice team’.
‘Overlap’ between practice and community pharmacists
However, the 3,100 additional practice pharmacist recruits should be ‘taken as a lower limit to what can be achieved’ because there may be ‘scope for significantly greater expansion’, the report said.
It added: ‘Part of the uncertainty about any upper estimate of the appropriate number of pharmacists arises because there is an overlap between pharmacists in general practice and pharmacists working in community pharmacies as part of the wider primary care team.’
Therefore, more work must be done to determine future practice staffing ratios to ensue a good balance between practice pharmacists and pharmacists in other settings, the report said.
‘The sharing of summary care records between settings can facilitate this and enable more joined-up care. Also, community pharmacy has its own estate, which opens additional possibilities for where services across a joined-up primary care team can be delivered,’ it added.
The new GP contract pledged to pay for 70% of the salary of one pharmacist in each GP practice in England.