Pharmacists in Wales would take on as much as a tenth of GPs' workload under plans to free up doctors' time by the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP).
RCGP Wales chair Paul Myres told C+D pharmacists could work alongside or in GP surgeries and take responsibility for improving medicines adherence, supporting chronic conditions and giving repeat prescribing guidance.
This would free up "5%, maybe even 10%" of GPs' time, allowing them to concentrate on complex patients, Dr Myers said last Monday (August 24).
The RCGP has already produced an action plan – published in July and sent to Welsh Assembly members and Welsh government officials ahead of next year’s elections – arguing for the move, and would press the case to party health leaders over the next three months, he said.
"Quite a few" GPs have begun to work with pharmacists in this way and find it “hugely useful”, he said.
The "significant shortfall" in GP numbers means the RCGP also wants to use other professions – including nurses and physiotherapists – to relieve pressure on practices.
"New money" needed
The Welsh government will have to provide “new money” to finance the scheme, rather than redirecting GP funding into pharmacy, Dr Myers said. Eventually, the government could pay for the project using money from secondary care because “beneficial, joined-up working” will prevent the need for patients to go to hospital, he said.
Some GPs are worried that collaborating with other professions could “diminish the generalist role of GPs”, he said. But work between GPs and pharmacists is is “complimentary” and doesn’t necessarily mean “one group taking over the work of another group”, he added.
South Wales contractor Paul Mayberry told C+D on Friday (August 28) that Dr Myres’ suggestion that pharmacists can take on a tenth of GPs’ workload was a “massive understatement”. “They [GPs] keep on saying how overworked they are...so why not move a lot of [the work] to community pharmacy,” he said.
Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) Wales chair Mair Davies agreed that “appropriate investment” and “commitment” from the Welsh government is needed to “help alleviate ever-increasing pressures” on GPs. Pharmacists can provide chronic medication schemes to free up GP time, she said.
In March, the RCGP called for an "army of pharmacists" to work alongside GPs in practices across England.