More patients in Gloucestershire and Wiltshire will soon be able to benefit from expert advice from a clinical pharmacist when they visit their GP surgery, thanks to the expansion of a national scheme to support a growing number of clinical pharmacists to help with patients’ routine medication and treatment.
NHS England has announced that over 700 more GP practices in England will benefit from having a pharmacist located in their GP surgery, covering up to six million patients and helping to free up GP time. Locally in Gloucestershire and Wiltshire, the announcement means approximately 118,500 patients (75,500 and 43,000 patients in each county respectively) registered with thirteen practices (9 and 4 respectively), will benefit from having new pharmacists located at their GP surgery. This follows an initial roll out of the national scheme which saw six practices in Gloucestershire, one scheme in Swindon across four practices and two pilot schemes in Wiltshire across seven practices taking part, benefitting around 150,000 patients.
Clinical pharmacists work as part of the general practice team by providing expertise for on day-to-day medicine issues and consultations with patients directly. This includes providing extra support to help patients manage their long-term conditions, such as managing high blood pressure earlier and more effectively to prevent cardiovascular disease; advice for patients on taking multiple medications; and offering better access to health checks. This all delivers quicker access to clinical advice for patients and allows GPs to spend time with patients who have more complex needs.
Welcoming the plans for more clinical pharmacists to support patient care in Gloucestershire and Wiltshire, Debra Elliott, Director of Commissioning in the South Central area said:
“Having a clinical pharmacist in GP practices means GPs can focus their skills where they are most needed, for example on diagnosing and treating patients with complex conditions. This helps GPs manage the demands on their time and ensures patients see the health professional that best suits their needs.”
As part of the initial roll out of this NHS England programme, patients have been able to get support from Clinical pharmacists in a number of practices in Gloucestershire, Swindon and Wiltshire area, since 2016.
Case study on the existing use of clinical pharmacists within the Gloucestershire area
Seven clinical pharmacists are already working across six GP practices in the Gloucestershire area to improve services for 52,600 patients following the initial roll out of this scheme in 2016.
Here a number of those practices share their experiences of the scheme:
Dr Liza Pickett, Churchdown Surgery in Gloucester, said: “I cannot overstate the benefit our practice pharmacist has had on our whole team.”
Richard Bull, Managing Partner at St Paul’s Medical Centre, Cheltenham; “Having a Clinical Pharmacist has made a real and positive contribution to the care that we provide to our patients. Her skills and knowledge enable all our team, both clinical and non-clinical staff, to be more informed and more confident in supporting patients with the correct medications. The patients more importantly find having a Clinical Pharmacist to talk to in the practice helps them have a greater understanding of their medication and treatment, which is resulting in better adherence, and happier patients. Likewise the GPs are delighted to devolve this aspect to the expertise of the pharmacist which creates capacity for them elsewhere.”
A patient from Cheltenham said; “I was really not sure of the benefits of attending the annual asthma review. I’ve missed a few years now. Talking to you today has been the best help I could have received – you were thorough and explained things really well – and I now know how to use my inhalers correctly even after all these years!”
As well as seeing patients, pharmacists are able to carry out comprehensive medication reviews for patients, for example patients with long term conditions, to make sure the medication they need is kept up to date. This includes ensuring that patients who use regular medication, such as patients with asthma and hypertension (high blood pressure) are using their medicines properly and at the appropriate doses. It also includes ensuring that patients who have experienced a change in their health receive the right medication for their needs, for example patients receiving end of life care. Some of the clinical pharmacists working as part of this project are also trained to directly prescribe medicines for patients and run clinics for those with long term conditions such as Asthma. The pilot project has helped bring these GP practices together to share their experience of developing the role of the clinical pharmacist within their teams, so that they can learn from one another how best to maximise the clinical skills of these health professionals for the benefit of their patients.