The number of pharmacists working in general practice has increased by almost 40% since last year, NHS Digital has revealed.

General practice workforce figures published last week (30 May) showed a 39% increase in full time equivalent (FTE) clinical pharmacists working in general practice, from 742 in March 2018 to 1,029 in March the following year.

From January to March 2019, there was an increase of 58 FTE clinical pharmacists in general practice, according to the data.

GP practice-based clinical pharmacists play a ‘vital role’ in the general practice team, improving value and helping patients get the best outcomes from their medicines, NHS Digital said.

This expansion matches a wider increase in the primary care workforce, including GPs, nurses and physician associates, as a whole.

The workforce saw an increase of 2,635 (2%) more FTE staff between March 2018 and 2019 and 703 (0.5%) over the previous quarter.

Primary care now has 7,302 more FTE health professionals than three years ago, according to the figures, exceeding the Government’s target to recruit an additional 5,000 health professionals into the sector by 2020.

In March, The Pharmacist revealed that just under a third (31%) of community pharmacists are considering packing up and moving into GP practices, confirming the National Pharmacy Association’s (NPA) fears of a mass migration into the sector.

Meanwhile, think tanks predicted that increasing the number of practice pharmacists to around 4,000 over the next five years could reduce the demand for GPs by 1,600.


‘Encouraging signs’


Interim medical director for primary care at NHS England Dr Nikki Kanani welcomed the data’s ‘encouraging signs’ and praised the ‘good work’ being done locally to support GPs.

She said: ‘A significant increase in the number of other health professionals such as nurses, pharmacists and physicians that work alongside GPs means patients can get more timely and appropriate access to a wider range of highly trained staff.

‘This supports family doctors to focus on patients with the most complex conditions and eases the workload pressures our GPs face.’

On 31 January, NHS England announced a new general practice funding contract that will pay for 70% of a so-called ‘clinical’ pharmacist's wage for each practice during the deal’s first 12 months.

Funding will be provided over the next five years for 20,000 more staff, including pharmacists, physiotherapists, paramedics and physician associates so that GP practices can work collaboratively with other healthcare professionals within primary care networks (PCNs).