Pharmacist-led medication reviews could free up 18 million GP appointments per year, a report has suggested.

A report — supported by a National Pharmacy Association (NPA) research grant – suggested that if every community pharmacy in England provided one day of support to GP practices per week, 18 million GP appointments would be released. This is the equivalent of 1,200 full-time GPs

It comes after the results of a scheme that saw Sheffield-based Basegreen Pharmacy provide four hours of support to nearby Jaunty Springs Medical Practice a week to free up GP time and improve the quality of the services.

Under the pilot, and through IT integration, the Basegreen pharmacy’s pharmacist was able to read and access GP clinical records, conduct face-to-face consultations in the pharmacy and review medications.


Lack of GP-based pharmacists


According to NPA chair Nitin Sodha, there is an average of one GP-based pharmacist for every 30,000 patients. But this is ‘nowhere near the scale required to meet current and future demand’, he said.

He added: ‘In comparison, in Sheffield, the ratio was one community pharmacist for a practice population of 3,500, plus the added resource of the pharmacy support staff.

‘Since NHS England has invested heavily in the general practice pharmacist scheme, there is surely a strong justification for investment in pharmacy-based schemes, which deliver similar benefits but can cater for many more patients, conveniently and probably at lower cost.

‘It is time for NHS England to review this alternative model in more detail and ensure funding is allocated from the Pharmacy Integration Fund (PhIF) to support the fuller deployment of the community pharmacy network.’


Positive impact on practices


Commenting on the report, Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) chief executive Simon Dukes said that ‘this is another example of the many ways in which enabling pharmacists to provide more care for patients could have a positive impact on GP practices, helping them to manage the growing pressure they are under’.

He continued: ‘The benefits to patients and to wider NHS services, including in economic terms, are also clearly evident from this report.

‘Integration of community pharmacy services with other healthcare providers is something that we will continue to support and work towards, and we very much hope to see examples of successful joint working like this becoming the norm, rather than the exception.’