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09.12.16

Patients welcome benefits from GP practice-based pharmacists

Patients and carers believe that pharmacists have an important role to play in GP practices as more GPs begin to employ them as part of their clinical team, a new report has revealed.

A survey of over 300 patients undertaken by the Patients Association revealed that nearly 80% of patients welcomed the addition of a pharmacist to their GP team and would welcome a review of their medicines by the pharmacist.

Roughly the same amount of patients also stated that they had better access to services with a GP-based pharmacist, with 70% saying that they felt that they did not need to make an appointment to see their doctor after speaking with the pharmacist.

Katherine Murphy, chief executive of the Patients Association, said: “We have undertaken this project to better understand patient’s views and have more say in their treatment and care at their general practice and to have an opportunity to influence change.

“At a time when the NHS is undergoing significant financial challenge and reform, we recognise the huge role clinical pharmacists can play in ensuring resources are used most effectively. By listening to patients and families’ feedback, the benefits and potential drawbacks of this new model of care are clear.”

GP surgeries are increasingly employing pharmacists as part of their clinical team, supported by NHS England’s Pharmacists in General Practice pilot and similar schemes in Wales and Northern Ireland.

It is hoped that in the near future every GP surgery will have a dedicated pharmacist offering patient-facing consultations, enabling practitioners to better manage the demands on their time.

Liz Butterfield, chair of the Primary Care Pharmacy Association (PCPA), welcomed the report, saying: "The PCPA is delighted with the findings of this survey which clearly shows that patients value the opportunity to discuss their medicines and care with practice-based pharmacists without feeling the need for a GP appointment.

“[We hope] to continue to build on our positive relationship with the Patients Association to promote the benefits of practice pharmacists to patients and the public.”

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the Royal College of GPs, also welcomed the introduction of practice-based pharmacists, arguing that they help reduce GPs’ workload, cut waiting times and free up time for patients.

However, as the role is a relatively new one, there is still work to be done with patients and GPs in raising the profile and benefits of the role – with the report recommending practices provide adequate public information about the role, promote awareness and conduct further staff training. 

“Pharmacists are highly trained and highly trusted healthcare professionals,” Stokes-Lampard said. “Patients should feel assured that when visiting a practice-based pharmacist, they will receive quality care in line with their unique health needs – and if they do really need to see a GP, they still can.”

The Patient Association has said that it hopes the report will encourage the NHS to consider other innovative ways of using different personnel to expand and improve services across the UK.

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