An ambitious, city-wide programme of community pharmacists working alongside GPs in Sheffield is successfully demonstrating a new model of care. The programme won a C+D Award for GP Partnership of the Year, for impressive outcomes such as reducing GP workload, improving medicines optimisation and improving patients' awareness of pharmacists' skills.
The collaboration was funded by the Prime Ministers Challenge Fund, a £150 million NHS England project to encourage innovative ways to increase access to primary care. It was supported by Community Pharmacy Sheffield. C+D spoke to Claire Thomas, chief officer of Community Pharmacy Sheffield, about the project.
She said: “I think this project recognised ahead of time that this is the direction that community pharmacists have to move in.”
The move to boost collaboration between community pharmacists and GPs was certainly prescient, made long before NHS England announced further funding to locate “clinical pharmacists” in GP practices.
It may have served as inspiration for NHS England’s chief pharmaceutical officer Dr Keith Ridge. He acknowledged the benefits of the project: "It is critical for pharmacists and GPs to work closely together if patients are going to get optimal outcomes from their medicines. This initiative is a good example of that and will help develop a genuine multidisciplinary and seamless approach to patient care, which plays to the strengths of GPs and community pharmacists alike."
The programme has more than 60 pharmacists working within 87 GP practices in Sheffield. Pharmacists are allocated to each practice, working one or two sessions a week. Since the pilot began in September 2015, 17 more pharmacists have been brought on board. They perform a variety of roles, including home visits to housebound patients, hospital discharge and medicines reconciliation, education and medication reviews. They also answer ad-hoc medication queries from staff and patients.
Ms Thomas says stumbling blocks included information governance and access to the Summary Care Record (SCR). But the biggest challenge will be to maintain the project’s momentum after the funding ends, and make sure progress is not lost or superseded by the national pilot scheme.
“Locally, GPs and pharmacists are fully in support of the government’s scheme,” Dr Thomas says. She is disappointed that the government hasn't taken the opportunity to stress the benefit that community pharmacists can bring to the community, especially when working in partnership with GPs.
“We are worried that if pharmacists apply for the national scheme it will take their skills out of community pharmacy. There’s going to be an impact on the number and quality of services provided by pharmacists in the community,” she says.
The pharmacists have provided help, expertise and support on more than 7,000 occasions since the project began in October 2015. An evaluation showed that in 87% of cases, the pharmacists completed the work and resolved the issue without referring to a GP. Had the pharmacist not been available, 95% of the work would have fallen to a GP.
What did the judges say?
The C+D Award judges said the project showed “excellent use of clinical pharmacy skills in the GP practice setting,” and described it as “a huge project which can’t be ignored.”
The project's impact on patients
Has your pharmacy worked with GPs to improve patient care? Entries for the GP Partnership of the Year – and the other 11 categories of the C+D Awards 2017 – are now open until Friday 24 February. Click here for more information and here to enter.