What do pharmacists in GP practices do?

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While the role of the clinical pharmacist in general practice has been developing for some time, it is now an integral part of the transformation in GP services. Outlined in the ‘GP Forward View’ (April 2016) – to address challenges in GP practices and utilise the vast knowledge of medicines that a pharmacist brings – NHS England has committed to get an additional 1500 pharmacists working in general practice by 2020-21.

This is in addition to a pilot scheme launched in July 2015, which has already seen 491 pharmacists working in around 650 GP practices across the country. A further rollout towards the 1500 target has now been launched, with GP practices applying for funding at the beginning of this year. We should see over 900 new pharmacist positions by March 2018 and over 1300 by March 2019.

Next Steps on the NHS Five Year Forward View further underlines the contribution this role can make to the plethora of NHS woes.

Indeed, pharmacists bring a unique perspective to GP practice; as medicines experts, they help ensure that patients are prescribed the right medicines, are regularly reviewed and adhering correctly.

This includes an operational role; reviewing medicines, ensuring compliance and supporting patient population medication reviews. The innovation also involves working as part of the general practice team to resolve day-to-day medicine issues and treating patients directly.

Many pharmacists are, or will be, independent prescribers running their own clinics, including managing minor ailments, providing extra help to manage long-term conditions and delivering advice for those on multiple medications. The role is pivotal to improving the quality of care, improving patient safety and reducing preventable medicine-related hospital admissions.

Pharmacists working in GP practices also have an important role to oversee patients’ transfer of care between hospital and the community. This is where many medicines safety issues occur and, therefore, the pharmacist working in the surgery can be key to ensuring a seamless service for patients, joining up care with hospitals, community pharmacists and other health professionals.

It is the benefits that pharmacists can bring to general practice that have led to such widespread support from GPs. Having a pharmacist in GP practices means GPs can focus their skills on diagnosing and treating patients with complex conditions.

Key supporters to ensuring successful implementation of the programme include NHS England, Health Education England, the Royal College of General Practitioners, the British Medical Association’s GP Committee and the Royal Pharmaceutical Society.

As part of the implementation plan and the wider workforce transformation, Health Education England – in partnership with NHS England – has a requirement to procure approximately 2000 accredited Pharmacist Independent Prescribers places across England.

Aside from the obvious engagement with pharmacists working in GP practice, there is an important role for pharma in facilitating the interface between clinical pharmacists working in hospitals and communities. How engaged are you with pharmacists?  


Deborah Evans is Managing Director of Pharmacy Complete, Board Member of Royal Pharmaceutical Society England and practices in a pharmacy within a GP practice.

Go to pharmacycomplete.org or email deborah@pharmacycomplete.org