Under the GP2Pharmacy pilot – which launched last month and will run until September – patients are triaged by their GP practice and offered one of 8,000 fixed-time appointments – including some weekend slots – with a pharmacist at one of 30 participating pharmacies.
The service runs alongside South Tyneside clinical commissioning group’s (CCG) “think pharmacy first” minor ailments scheme and means participating pharmacies can supply medicines for certain conditions, under a patient group direction (PGD), the CCG explained.
GP2Pharmacy programme lead Karen Large told C+D the scheme is the “perfect solution”, as “there wasn’t enough money to put a pharmacist full-time…into all of the GP practices in South Tyneside, and it wouldn’t be practical to do that”.
The service is “really utilising [the pharmacists’] existing skills”, as well as building on them, Ms Large said. Pharmacists involved have already undergone training under two PGDs – for impetigo and urinary tract infections, she explained.
Expanding on the scheme, the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee said it “also supports other planned patient appointments on a proactive basis, such as regular check-ups…long-term condition management (such as blood pressure), and semi-centralised, disease-specific clinics to assist with polypharmacy and compliance”.
“It’s not rocket science”
Louise Lydon, a contractor in Jarrow, South Tyneside – and part of the team that developed the scheme – told C+D it is a “natural progression” for the area, as patients have “been able to come in [to a pharmacy] and access the minor ailments scheme for about 10 years”.
Around 50 consultations were taking place per week when the pilot started last month, so “it’s probably more than that now”, Ms Lydon said last week (February 5).
Ms Large said the pharmacists involved seem “pleased”. “I think it’s something that a lot of people would have liked to have done for a long time.
“It’s not rocket science, it’s just making the process work for them, so the pharmacies that are up and running are quite happy for it,” she added.
Patients are also pleased, as Ms Lydon’s pharmacy is on a “very busy council estate, and we’re the only health professional on the estate”, she explained.
“The patients love the scheme, because they don’t have to drive or take [their] children to the GP surgery, which…isn’t closely located to our pharmacy.”
Hopes for the service
There are “about another dozen PGDs in the pipeline”, Ms Lydon said, and pharmacists will be undergoing training in March to conduct clinical examinations of the throat and the ear, so “we are really developing the scheme”.
Ms Large added that they should have a better idea of how the service is performing after two or three months.
But “it already feels like it’s going to be a success [and] there’s nothing we’re concerned about”, she said.
Ms Large is already planning to “approach the CCG before the end of the contract” to discuss extending the scheme. “It will be a real shame for people used to having that service if it stops.”