Smaller practices will get easier and more direct access to clinical pharmacists in general practice scheme funding following an NHS England criteria change.
NHS England said it decided to change ‘the criteria for the programme to make it easier for sites to operate across a smaller population size, and allowing clinical pharmacists to work part-time’.
The changes, which came into effect on 23 October, mean that GP practices covering 15,000 patients will be able to apply for one whole-time-equivalent (WTE) pharmacist. This is a reduction from the previous criteria of one WTE pharmacist per 30,000 patients.
The changes also mean that pharmacists will be allowed to work part-time for a minimum of 0.5 WTE, down from the previous requirement of 0.8 WTE.
Commenting on the new criteria, Royal Pharmaceutical Society board chair Sandra Gidley said: ‘Changing the ratio of pharmacists per head of population means smaller GP practices will now be included in the scheme, so more patients will benefit from the care of a pharmacist.
‘Changing the working hours required from 0.8 WTE to 0.5 will allow pharmacists greater flexibility and encourage more portfolio working.’
As of September 2018, NHS England count 810 WTE clinical pharmacists working in general practice. Similar programmes are also running in Wales and Scotland.
Around 1,834 surgeries in England, covering more than 15 million patients, ‘have access to clinical pharmacists in patient-facing roles as part of the multidisciplinary team’, according to NHS England.
As part of the GPFV, the NHS committed over £100m to support an extra 1,500 clinical pharmacists to work in general practice by 2020/21, but according to the RCGP, the scheme is on track to exceed its target.
Pharmacists can help relieve pressure on GPs helping with the management of long-term conditions, giving advice to those on multiple medicines and improving patients’ quality of care and safety, according to NHS England.
A study published last month also found that pharmacists in GP practices can help improve staff morale, with one practice manager acknowledging that the presence of a pharmacist in their practice made ‘for a nicer, less stressful day for everyone involved in the prescribing process for patients’.
Practices can submit their application for the programme on an ongoing basis. Deadlines for the next waves are: 23 November 2018, 22 February 2019, and 31 May 2019.