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”.