Clinical pharmacists in GP practices can save around five hours of GP time per week and boost staff morale, a study has concluded.
The research, published today in the British Journal of General Practice, studied the impact of pharmacists across 16 practices in Inverclyde, caring for 82,000 people in a deprived part of Scotland.
The study found that not only can GPs save time they would have spent on prescribing activities but also that adding a pharmacist to the GP practice team improved staff morale and patients safety.
An anonymous practice manager who took part in the study said: ‘Pharmacists do not only help the GPs in the biggest way possible, they also help the practice nurse, offering prescribing advice. All of this just makes for a nicer, less stressful day for everyone involved in the prescribing process for patients.’
The study concluded that although pharmacists in practices do not represent a ‘cheaper option than GP prescribing’, as they take longer on this activity to ‘focus on safe, appropriate and cost-effective medicine use’.
However, clinical pharmacist can improve prescribing systems and patient safety, a result that brought the lead authors of the report to ask for long-term secure funding that will enable practices to continue making these progresses through the help of a pharmacist.
More than 200 full-time equivalent pharmacists and 47 full-time technicians currently work across half of GP practices in Scotland, as Scottish health secretary Jeane Freeman recently announced at the International Pharmaceutical Federation.
The Scottish Government has pledged to ensure that all GP practices have access to a pharmacist with advanced clinical skills by 2021.
In 2015, the Scottish Government announced £50m to be invested in primary care services over three years. Around £20.5m were injected in the Primary Care Transformation Fund (2015-18) and part of that money was used to train and recruit 140 full-time equivalent pharmacists.
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: ‘By 2021 all GP practices in Scotland will have access to pharmacists with advanced clinical skills. These pharmacists, supported by technicians, will take on a range of tasks concerning medicines related issues which patients would normally present to their GP.
‘Under the new GP contract these pharmacists and support technicians now form the foundation for the pharmacotherapy service, providing an important function in supporting patients with their medicines. To date, around 500 GP practices across Scotland are receiving a level of pharmacy team support based on local need, from this investment.’