The study – published last month in the British Journal of General practice – collected responses from 131,419 patients with hypertension who undertook a new medicine service (NMS) consultation in pharmacies across England between 2011 and 2012.
The study’s authors, from the Nuffield department of primary care health sciences at Oxford University, found that “overall referral rates were low” among these patients, with just 5,895 (4.5%) referred by their pharmacy to a GP within the first two weeks of starting a new hypertensive. The most common reason for referral was side effects, followed by “negative feelings towards the drug” and “uncertainty regarding the efficacy of the new medication”, the authors added.
“In contrast, patients who were provided with more information about their new medication from the pharmacist, and those using their medications as prescribed, were less likely to be referred to their GP.”
The authors, who pointed out that hypertension accounts for “almost one in 10” GP consultations, suggested that an “extended prescribing role for community pharmacists could reduce referral of routine cases to an already overstretched general practice”. However, they acknowledged this “would require many [pharmacists] to undertake further training”.
The authors concluded that “efficient communication systems between pharmacists and GPs” could also result in reduced patient referrals “by allowing pharmacists to implement changes to medications or doses in a more timely manner in pharmacies”.
They suggested further research to “analyse clinical notes made by pharmacists following consultations with patients with hypertension”, to assess the “specific advice or recommendations” being provided.