NHS England has launched the second phase of its clinical pharmacist scheme, bringing the total number of practices under the scheme to over 1000.

The first phase of the scheme was announced in April and the second round of applications has now been fully assessed. The newly released list of sites include over 80 GP practices across 67 areas of England.

Alongside the first wave, this amounts to over 1060 practices – covering over 18 million patients – with the third wave of applications for the programme not due to close until the end of September.

'Underutilised resource'

The first pilot was launched in July 2015 and saw over 490 clinical pharmacists be introduced into general practice. In the following General Practice Forward View, the NHS committed over £100 million to bring in an extra 1,500 clinical pharmacists by 2020/21, stating that pharmacists ‘remain one of the most underutilised professional resources in the system’.

Pharmacists are seen as an increasingly important part of the solution to the GP crisis. The NHS is encouraging pharmacists to work within general practice teams, helping out with tasks including resolving common medicine issues and patient consultations in order to reduce GP workload.

To promote this collaboration, the NHS has invited GP practices to apply for funding to recruit and train clinical pharmacists. Participating practices will receive funding for three years, in an effort to establish clinical pharmacists in practices for the long term.

According to a statement on NHS England’s website, having clinical pharmacists in practices means ‘GPs can focus their skills where they are most needed, for example on diagnosing and treating patients with complex conditions’, which helps doctors to manage time pressures.

Clinical pharmacists can also help to manage comorbidity and long-term conditions, which are becoming more common as the population ages, providing a ‘pivotal’ role in GP surgeries. According to one case study, the clinical pharmacist role can reduce the number of GP appointments by 30%.