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Mowat insists 'clinical' pharmacists are not a 'red herring'

Mr Mowat: Previous funding model encourages clusters to develop

Pharmacy minister David Mowat has denied that employing "clinical" pharmacists is a "red herring".

Mr Mowat was responding to a statement by Labour MP for Burnley Julie Cooper, who claimed: "The government [is] suggesting that in-surgery pharmacists are a substitute [for community pharmacies], but that is a red herring."

"I welcome the use of well-qualified pharmacists in GP surgeries, but that is a totally separate issue," she added. "It is like comparing hospital doctors to GPs."

In the debate in Westminster Hall yesterday (January 11), which C+D attended, the pharmacy minister insisted he is “committed” to employing more pharmacists in GP practices.

“There are something like 400 clinical pharmacists working in GP practices. We have committed and budgeted £112 million to increase that to 2,000 clinical pharmacists, many of them dispensing pharmacists.”

This scheme is “not in conflict” with community pharmacy's role, despite criticisms from “some parts of the pharmacy network”, Mr Mowat stressed.

“[The scheme] is a way of breaking down the barriers there have occasionally been between clinical commissioning groups, GPs and the pharmacy profession. They are not in anyone’s interests and we need to get over them,” Mr Mowat said.

The parliamentary motion being debated was brought by Conservative MP Anne Main, to explore how the government can better integrate pharmacies into the health service.

Mr Mowat introduced his comments by claiming “there is a huge amount of agreement” between MPs about the issues facing pharmacy.

Previous funding model "encourages clusters"

Mr Mowat also claimed that “[some]thing we all agree on” is that “value for money” is needed from the “£2.8 billion we spend on dispensing around £8bn worth of drugs”.

“The existing funding model encourages clusters to develop,” said Mr Mowat, echoing Jeremy Hunt’s criticism of pharmacy "clusters" in parliament on Monday.

But Ms Cooper dubbed “clusters” another “red herring”. She highlighted how pharmacies are “independent” businesses that “respond to demand”.

She gave an example of four pharmacies close to one another that are all “really busy”.

“If a new one opens, it does not cost the government any more [money]; it just means the same amount of money is shared out more thinly.”

Conservative MP Jo Churchill also argued that clusters are not problematic, pointing out that mutiples and independents provide different services. “The last thing we want is an independent pharmacy not being able to survive”.

The “clinical pharmacist” debate on Twitter
What do you think about the push for more practice pharmacists?

Jonny Johal, Pharmacy Area manager/ Operations Manager

I would discourage pharmacists from going down that route, the government is looking for a cheap get-out clause - practice pharmacists pay scale is just not comparable with the GPs.

Gerry Diamond, Primary care pharmacist

I can't see the problem differentiating 'dispensing chemist' and 'clinical pharmacist', as have worked as both and never bothered me what the role was called. It's all about the money stupid, and having two degrees, two post grad diplomas and specialist qualifications in minor illness, clinical examination skills , clinical diagnostics decision making skills, running long term illness clinics, prescriber and other bits , reducing the £1.5milllion drug budget pieces. A lad up the load dispensing about 4000 items half my age earns about £5 grand more, so it;s all smoke and mirrors. Lolx

Jupo Patel, Production & Technical

Just a way of pharmacists shafting eachother. Clinical Pharmacists are meant to be superior(in knowledge and pay packet) to the common garden community pharmacist toiling away. You only hear of this in pharmacy for some absurd reason.

Surgeons for example do not actively pursue the denigration of GPs or Gynaecologists. Do matrons try to to undermine and make light of the work of staff nurses. Ultimately the whole gravy train is coming to a juddering halt in community pharmacy.

Valentine Trodd, Community pharmacist

I know I've said it before, but I just wonder how many of these practice pharmacists will be around in a couple of years when the GPs have to pay for them out of their own pockets. Wouldn't they just spend the money on another GP for the practice?

Ben Merriman, Community pharmacist

Re: clinical pharmacists.  What's wrong with the term "practice pharmacists"?  

I commented on a PJ article last month  and still believe this to be true  

"I cannot fathom the need for the term clinical pharmacist, a term that I've heard more and more of over the last couple of years. Some pharmacists will have more in depth pharmacological knowledge due to working in a hospital setting but may not have the most concise understanding of minor ailments due to not seeing patients with acute needs on a daily basis. 

Some will know the commissioning processes followed by NHS England and the local clinical commissioning groups in the areas they practice but will be the first to admit that their understanding of wholesale dealing regulations may need some refreshing.

Many pharmacists will be able to list the ideal reference ranges for biochemical tests from memory but will not know about the MHRA cascade to be followed when using unlicensed/off label medicines.

Surely any pharmacist that deals with patients and patient care are clinical. No one pharmacist in a particular setting is better or worse than any other, each is best suited to their given environment.

So, I am still at a loss as the need for the term "clinical pharmacist" - is it to display some sort of superiority of one sector over another? Why can we not all appreciate that we each have our own areas of expertise and areas that we may need help from our colleagues with.

On the contrary, I can't say I've ever heard of a physician, a dentist, a nurse or a veterinarian ever being referred to as a clinical version of their chosen profession."

Angela Channing, Community pharmacist

I think it may have it's origins about 25/30 yrs ago when you had "dispensing chemists" in the community or retail pharmacy; and it was when hospital ward pharmacists were just starting to take off, so they became "clinical pharmacists" as they operating on a 'medical' level in the hospital ward.  Unless anyone has any other ideas where the terms originated?

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