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Technicians follow 'clinical pharmacists' into GP practices

Following the success of NHS England's 'clinical pharmacist' programme, pharmacy technicians are being employed in GP surgeries in west London.

The pilot scheme is intended to make the processing of documents through GP systems “safer and more efficient”, Dave Sellers, project manager at Hammersmith and Fulham GP Federation, told C+D yesterday (April 19).

The idea of using pharmacy technicians “flowed from the success” of pharmacists working in GP practices as part of NHS England's national programme, Mr Sellers said.

These technicians are the first recipients of all patient documentation received by their GP practices – "sometimes over 700 documents are processed by a practice per week".

"We believe there is scope for a number of GP practices to share back-office functions and increase efficiency," Mr Sellers said.

"[Technicians'] clinical skills and experience give them a much better understanding of the issues involved and the necessary actions to take," he added.

The pilot – one of "a number of initiatives being developed aimed at relieving pressure on GPs” – started in February, with one pharmacy technician working in one practice, Mr Sellers explained. A second practice was added in March.

“Next week [the GP federation] will employ the second pharmacy technician in the team and the project will be extended to a third practice,” he said.

“We think there are a number of roles for pharmacy technicians within general practice, including helping with the prescribing process, dealing with hospital discharge and more patient-facing roles,” Mr Sellers told C+D.

He predicted that within 18 months, a good proportion of the GP practices in Fulham and Hammersmith will have a pharmacy technician.

GP reaction

The reaction of the GPs in the two practices served by the project is “really encouraging”, Mr Sellers said.

“GPs acknowledge the safety aspects of the model, where a clinician reads all documents within two days of receipt,” he added. “Anything urgent can be picked up and passed to the duty doctor for action.”

In some cases, GP practices are redesigning the doctors’ day to include more patient contact, Mr Sellers said.

For more information about the pilot scheme, or to apply for a position, contact [email protected]

What’s it like to be a pharmacy technician working in a GP practice?

Termeh Goudarznia was working four days a week as a pharmacy technician in a community pharmacy when she applied to work in a GP practice.

After a meeting with Mr Sellers, she found the concept of the project "interesting", she told C+D. “I could see some of the [same] challenges we had in pharmacy regarding discharge letters.”

It has been a “great learning process” and has been going “better than expected”.

Ms Goudarznia’s day involves checking documents that have been processed by the admin team in the early morning.

“I act upon them appropriately – either send them to a GP for action, or call the patient to see if they are ok or if they need medicine.”

Ms Goudarznia said having pharmacy technicians in GP surgeries means the doctor’s “valuable time” is spent seeing patients, rather than reading documents.

“Processing documents are safer this way,” she added.

Should NHS England fund pharmacy technicians to work in GP practices?

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