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NHS England reduces GP pharmacist-to-patient ratio to gain recruits

NHS England reduced the population criteria to one GP pharmacist per 15,000 patients
NHS England reduced the population criteria to one GP pharmacist per 15,000 patients

NHS England has updated the entry criteria for its “clinical pharmacist” scheme to encourage smaller practices to start recruiting.

More than 1,100 “clinical pharmacists” have so far been placed across more than 3,300 GP practices as part of NHS England’s initiative to recruit 2,000 by 2020-21 – a ratio of one per 30,000 patients.

On Tuesday (October 23), NHS England reduced the population criteria to one GP pharmacist per 15,000 patients, to allow smaller practices, or groups of practices, to employ a pharmacist under the scheme for the first time.

GP pharmacists will also be able to work part-time. Previously, recruits to the scheme had to work a minimum of 0.8 whole time equivalent (WTE) hours ie 30 hours of an average 37.5 hour working week.

In a blog post to accompany the announcement, England’s deputy chief pharmaceutical officer Dr Bruce Warner said: “The new entry criteria is aimed at encouraging even more [GP pharmacists] into the NHS.”

Practices working across a population of 15,000 will now be able to apply for co-funding, so those with a lower population – such as rural areas – will be able to employ a pharmacist, Dr Warner explained.

“Pharmacists will also be able to work more flexibly, which will enable more to choose to take up the posts, and we are streamlining the process of application, so it is now quicker and easier for practices to gain approval from the programme,” he added.

“What we need now is for more practices to take up the scheme.”

RPS: Scheme encourages portfolio working

Responding to the new entry criteria, Royal Pharmaceutical Society English board chair Sandra Gidley said pharmacists should become “key players in primary care multidisciplinary teams”.

“Changing the ratio of pharmacists per head of population means smaller GP practices will now be included in the scheme, so more patients will benefit from the care of a pharmacist,” she said.

“Changing working hours required will allow pharmacists greater flexibility and encourage more portfolio working.”

“The opportunities for pharmacists are really opening up and as the professional body, we want to see all pharmacists have the opportunity to develop their career and win new roles,” Ms Gidley added.

According to an NHS England-funded evaluation of the first phase of the “clinical pharmacist” scheme published in July, practice-based pharmacists have had a “significant impact” on the management of patients’ long-term conditions, significantly increased practices' patient appointment capacity and "reduced pressure on GPs”.

Would you consider applying for a GP pharmacist role?

Gerry Diamond, Primary care pharmacist

I believe that money would be better spent on community pharmacy services rather than GP Practice Pharmacists, because GP Practice Pharmacy function no longer focuses on medicines management or optimisation. The job involves sorting out pathetic queries from reception staff that are so rudemnetary that the time spent on it is ridiculous. For example, a patient wants sugar coated quinine sulphate tablets not film coated, but the quinine prolongs the patients QT interval and could kill them is unimportant, patents wants branded solpadol, seroquel, amias,

Nobody wants to buy self care items. These are all the dross that GP practice pharmacist send hours each day sorting out, as well as being press ganged into reissuing hundreds of acute items for whom you have never seen a patient, so if you screw it up then your dead meat.

Also, GPHC complaints have been weaponised so that if you don't authorise sleepers or opiates then you will be getting a standard letter putting you under investigation for turning them down.

My advice hand the money back to community pharmacy and let them be paid for medicines optimisation and medicines review services.

Leon The Apothecary, Student

Every GP Pharmacist I've had the pleasure dealing with has loved their role and each has said they'd never go back to community pharmacy.

Ben Merriman, Community pharmacist

I know your boss doesn't see community pharmacies as anything other than a supply function, Dr Warner, but please don't let his bias skew your view.  Using language such as encouraging more pharmacists into the NHS is terribly divisive and incorrect; as an employee of an NHS contractor (general practice), a practice pharmacist (no C word) is no more part of the NHS than and employee of an NHS contractor (community pharmacy)

Chemical Mistry, Information Technology

No wonder the black horse pharmacy group is recruiting from the EU again

Adam Hall, Community pharmacist

So, when politicians talk about Pharmacists relieving some of the GP workload, this is what they mean - not Community Pharmacy but GP Pharmacy. And when they talk about integrating Pharmacy in to the Primary Care team, this is what they mean. In other words, make Pharmacists employees of GPs and then they are paid for by the GP, not the NHS

Caroline Jones, Community pharmacist

I'm not sure what the problem is? GPs are contractors to the NHS and receive a budget, they then fund a Pharmacist! Not sure why you'd think being employed by a GP/NHS is a problem; when the alternative for most is one of the large multiples.......?!?

Adam Hall, Community pharmacist

Hi Caroline - my problem is not with working for/with GPs or being employed by the NHS, it's that we have all been hearing from politicians of every spectrum that Community Pharmacy can do more and be involved more - which I think we would all welcome - but this is not fulfilling the promise of those comments. In other wrods, this is more an opportunity for the individual than the profession as a whole

Mike Hewitson, Superintendent Pharmacist

It's already difficult to find pharmacists in rural areas. This will only make the problem worse. 

Benie I, Locum pharmacist

By that logic will they pay more in rural areas or simply go without?

Charles Whitfield Bott, Pharmacist Director

we do pay more

Shock and horror. I agree with Sandra Gidley. 

And yes if I were at the start of my career yes this is something I would jump at.

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