A new report looking into pharmacists working in GP practices has brought to light the damning opinions they have of their peers in community.
The report, published in the Research in Social and Administrative Pharmacy journal last month, anonymously interviewed 19 practice pharmacists from ten clinics in South-East England.
The integration of pharmacists into GP practices, which was first piloted in 2015, caused professional tension, with some interviewees ‘particularly critical of community pharmacy’, the research revealed.
Just ‘working in a shop’?
One respondent said: ‘All [community pharmacists] are, are checking monkeys really.
‘The guys now are at university for four years but what for exactly? To work in a shop is how it feels quite a lot of the time’, they added.
The report revealed that although there was little financial incentive for moving into integrated roles, community pharmacy was deemed ‘less professionally valuable’ by GP pharmacists because contractors were ‘under-utilised’.
One pharmacist respondent said: ‘If you are working in community, you don't really get to use [your] in-depth knowledge and skill whereas if you are face-to-face in a GP practice, you get 10–20 minute appointments and can actually motivate and support patients more effectively.’
‘Less than scrupulous’
Another respondent called ‘some’ community colleagues ‘less than scrupulous’ in their management of repeat prescriptions, saying they ‘take the mickey in terms of over-ordering repeats’.
They said: ‘You will find them ordering repeats for patients for items they don't need. It doesn't do well for relations. There is always a suspicion from the GP side (staff and GP) that the community pharmacy is ripping them off.
‘If GP practices see all pharmacists in that vein, it doesn't encourage them to want to employ them in the practices’, they added.
A third pharmacist said the ‘stupid things that community pharmacies appear to be doing’ set practice pharmacists against their community colleagues, branding multiple prescription re-ordering systems ‘absolutely atrocious’.
Practice pharmacist pilot scheme
The pharmacists interviewed also expressed tensions with those recruited into general practice as part of NHS England’s pilot scheme.
The pilot was designed to reduce the workload of primary care doctors and nurses and included structured training, clinical mentorship and partial funding for the pharmacists’ salaries.
Practice pharmacists who were not part of the original pilot cohort said those who were part of the scheme ‘had [been] given [it all] on a plate’ and spoke of having to use their initiative to ‘force our way in and actually earn our position’.
One respondent said: ‘Pilot pharmacists have got funded education, protected time, mentoring, an education mentor set up, a clinical mentor set up. I have had to do every single thing myself.’
They expressed concerns that the pharmacists emerging from the pilot scheme with further training would put their jobs ‘in jeopardy’.
NHS England recently announced funding for 22,000 additional practice staff, including 70% of pharmacists’ salaries who are employed in networks as part of the new GP contract. This will include those already recruited in previous schemes.
‘We don’t agree’
A National Pharmacy Association (NPA) spokesman told The Pharmacist that the lobbying group ‘obviously… doesn’t agree’ with the way some respondents described community pharmacists.
They added: ‘We recognise the benefits of GPs and pharmacists working closely together. A report supported by the NPA showed how better collaboration between community pharmacists and GPs could free-up 18 million GP appointments a year.’
Find out what our editor-in-chief Beth Kennedy thinks of how practice pharmacists are funded here