In 2016, the GP Forward View included a promise to invest £31 million to pilot 470 clinical pharmacists in over 700 GP practices. NHS England later pledged to invest an additional £112m, with the aim that there should be 1,500 extra pharmacists working in general practice by 2021, to help relieve GP workload.
In a review on progress made on the GP Forward View, the RCGP said a total of 1,200 full time equivalent pharmacists will be in post in “summer 2018”.
And “indicative plans” for the programme suggest that this will rise to 2,000 by 2021, the RCGP said in its report, published on Tuesday (August 7), “exceeding the original target set out in the GP Forward View”.
However, their evidence suggests even more practice-based pharmacists will need to be recruited to meet demand, it added.
Practice pharmacists "spread too thinly"
The RCGP said feedback from GPs on the role has been “incredibly positive”, and suggested practice pharmacists can have a significant impact on GP workload.
It called for an “increase [in] the number of pharmacists available in general practice, particularly across groups of smaller practices where the pharmacist’s time will otherwise be spread too thinly”. The current ratio of clinical pharmacists working at a scale of one to 30,000 patients “should be reduced”, the college stressed.
Last month, an NHS-England funded evaluation of the scheme found that practice pharmacists have had a “significant impact” on the management of long-term conditions, and most GP practices are seeking to employ their pharmacist when the pilot funding ends in 2020-21.
However, the RCGP warned that some members are concerned they will not be able to continue to employ a pharmacist once the initial NHS England funding for the programme runs out.
“The sustainability of the employment of pharmacists in general practice therefore needs to be reviewed, and sufficient funding must be provided so that the clear benefits they provide in reducing workload and in the delivery of effective, safe patient care can continue,” it added.
Practice pharmacists will be "indispensable"
Tom Gregory, a practice pharmacist at New Court Surgery in Weston-super-Mare, Somerset, said reducing the ratio of one pharmacist for every 30,000 patients “makes sense”.
“The current limit means that practices have to work together to meet the scale, and so pharmacists don't become embedded in the practices,” he said.
“A GP practice wouldn't think of operating without a practice nurse now, I think it's only a matter of time before pharmacists are seen as just as indispensable.”