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RCGP proposals for pharmacists to work in GP practices

The RCGP and Royal Pharmaceutical Society have suggested that pharmacists should work in GP practices to help tackle GP workload, but what do the proposals actually say?

Practice-based pharmacists would help care for frail elderly patients and those with polypharmacy (Picture: iStock)
Practice-based pharmacists would help care for frail elderly patients and those with polypharmacy (Picture: iStock)

The RCGP and the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) have been working together in recent years to increase collaboration between GPs and pharmacists.

The two organisations believe that pharmacists based in GP practices will be able to contribute to the practice’s clinical work related to medicines, relieve service pressure and increase capacity.

The proposal is not about about co-locating community pharmacies in practices, but about appropriately skilled individual pharmacists actually working as part of the practice team.

The organisations don’t explicitly spell out how this would be achieved, but the assumption is that practices would recruit and employ the pharmacist.

Why should practices take on a pharmacist?

It is estimated that 370m patient consultations will take place in general practice this year – 70m more than five years ago. But as demand has risen, the number of GPs in England has remained relatively stagnant. By contrast there is an over-supply of pharmacists.

A study in 2013 found that pharmacists play a critical role in reducing medicine errors in general practice. Meanwhile, patients with asthma, diabetes or complex medicine needs can benefit from a full medicines review undertaken by a pharmacist.

What would practice-based pharmacists do?

The RCGP and RPS suggest that the primary role of the practice-based pharmacist would be to deal with medicine-related problems and issues that arise in a practice on a day-to-day basis. This would include:

  • Liaison with hospitals, community pharmacists and care homes to ensure seamless care and reduce medication errors.
  • Working closely with community pharmacy services to review patients’ medicines, particularly those with complex conditions.
  • Help take care of frail elderly patients or those receiving polypharmacy.
  • Work with clinicians to ensure the most effective treatments are used and that treatments are adjusted according to the individual need of a patient.
  • Ensure GPs are kept abreast of medicine changes when a patient goes into, or comes out of, hospital.
  • Use their knowledge to improve management of medicines and reduce medicine waste throughout the practice. 

What else could pharmacists do?

Pharmacists can also train to become independent prescribers. Although the RCGP/RPS statement does not make mention of this, some practices that already employ pharmacists have found this additional skill to be a valuable asset to the team.

For dispensing practices, the pharmacist will also have expertise and insight to help run the dispensary more efficiently.

Case study

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