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The crucial role of pharmacy professionals and their impact on primary care

Observed through his work, Adeem Azhar explains how pharmacy professionals are alleviating GP pressures…

In the midst of a typical, bustling NHS GP surgery, where nearly 90% of GPs report being overwhelmed by their workloads according to a Sky News survey, the healthcare system faces a critical challenge. This scenario, fraught with the risk of ongoing practice closures, underscores the immense pressure on our healthcare providers across the country.

It is within this context that the role of pharmacy professionals has become increasingly vital. Our contributions now extend far beyond the confines of traditional dispensing, as we emerge as key figures in primary care. By expanding and enhancing our roles, pharmacy professionals are offering a significant ray of hope, not only alleviating the strain on primary care teams but also paving the way for a more resilient and efficient healthcare system.


The evolving role of pharmacy professionals


The landscape of pharmacy practice within the NHS is undergoing a remarkable transformation. Far from being confined to traditional roles, pharmacy professionals are increasingly becoming central to the delivery of clinical services in primary care. Our expertise encompasses a broader spectrum of healthcare services. For instance, GP pharmacists are now integral to conducting in-depth medication reviews, ensuring each treatment is precisely tailored and fit for purpose to the patient’s needs. Our involvement extends to the proactive management of chronic conditions such as diabetes, where our advice and interventions can significantly enhance patient outcomes.

Read more: Shaping the future: The evolving role of pharmacy professionals in primary care

Furthermore, the scope of our practice has evolved to include prescribing responsibilities. This advancement allows us to offer timely and effective medication management, directly impacting patient care on a daily basis. The shift is not just a change in duties; it represents a fundamental evolution in how pharmacy professionals contribute to the healthcare system, actively improving the quality of care for patients across the UK.


Examples and Impact


The tangible benefits of the expanded roles of pharmacy professionals within the NHS are readily apparent. Consider the example of pharmacist-led anticoagulation clinics within primary care networks (PCNs). These clinics have become critical in managing patients on warfarin for example, ensuring they receive optimal care while simultaneously reducing the workload on GPs and positively impacting the wider healthcare economy. This is not just a matter of convenience, it's also about enhancing patient safety and outcomes.

Read more: Part one: My journey from community pharmacist to the director of medicines in a PCN

In relation to chronic disease management, for conditions like diabetes, the role of pharmacy professionals has evolved significantly. Our involvement in monitoring and titrating medication therapies has proven to be transformative, leading to better-managed conditions and improved patient health. Additionally, our active participation in medication reviews and clinical audits has become an essential aspect of primary care. By identifying and correcting potential medication errors, we are playing a pivotal role in enhancing patient safety and ensuring the efficacy of treatments. This shift in responsibilities underscores our commitment to making a substantial and positive impact on patient care.


Alleviating GP workload with pharmacy expertise


The contribution of pharmacy professionals in reducing the workload of GPs within the NHS is noteworthy. A significant aspect of our role includes the management of repeat prescriptions. This responsibility ensures that patients receive their medications accurately and promptly, which has a direct positive impact on patient care and GP workloads. As a result, GPs are afforded more time to address complex medical cases that require their specific expertise.

Read more: Part two: My journey from community pharmacy to the director of medicines in a PCN

Our involvement extends beyond prescription management to active participation in chronic disease management. Pharmacy professionals are deeply engaged in patient care, including adjusting medication for conditions like asthma and providing essential lifestyle guidance for patients with conditions such as high cholesterol. These efforts contribute to better overall patient care, proactive patient management and enhance the efficiency of the healthcare system. Pharmacy professionals are playing an integral part in streamlining healthcare delivery and improving patient outcomes.


Final thoughts and key takeaways


The expanded roles of pharmacy professionals in the NHS aren't just a shift - they're a leap towards better access to healthcare. We're tackling overwhelming GP workload head-on, from medication management to leading and conducting specialised clinics such as hypertension.

Read more: I’ve become an independent prescriber. So, what’s next?

Our broader scope is already showing results. I have observed better patient outcomes in areas like anticoagulation and chronic condition management. Importantly, we're also at the forefront of preventive care, reducing preventable hospital visits and enhancing patient health.

Clinical pharmacy teams are now deeply imbedded in primary care, demonstrating a tangible positive impact on improving patients health outcomes.  The need for specialist clinical pharmacy expertise will only become greater more than ever as GP numbers are decreasing year by year and an ageing population with complex needs is also increasing.


Adeem Azhar is the co-founder and chief executive officer of Core Prescribing Solutions.

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