Creating new roles within community pharmacies could significantly relieve pressure on GPs and primary care services, as well as improving services for patients, a new study has found.
The research was carried out at the University of Nottingham and involved five clinical commissioning groups in the East Midlands as part of the GP Pharmacy Transformation project.
It involved six community pharmacist independent prescribers (CPIPs) being designated to six general practices for a period of one year, during which they worked between one and four days per week.
Each CPIP had an induction of approximately eight days, which included clinical shadowing and IT training, prior to taking up the position.
It was found that from the first day of their placements, CPIPs were freeing up time for GPs by conducting medication reviews. After six months, they were able to consult with patients on chronic disease reviews and support the hospital discharge process to prevent readmissions.
Thanks to the longer appointment times they could offer in comparison with doctors, they could also get to know patients and boost adherence to medication routines.
When questioned as part of the study, patients demonstrated overwhelming support for the CPIPs and frequently said they began to contact them as a first port of call when medical problems cropped up instead of attempting to see a doctor.
However, the report warned that the limited supply of CPIPs could result in their recruitment proving challenging going forward, should wider schemes be rolled out. It said upskilling existing pharmacists to CPIP status may be necessary if development in this sector is to continue.
Management roles would also be necessary to support CPIPs and GPs if this initiative was to take on national significance, the report stated.
Chair of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society English Pharmacy Board Sandra Gidley told the Pharmaceutical Journal: "There are no longer any excuses to avoid developing ways in which prescribing community pharmacists can become integral members of the primary health care team."
The news comes after research by the University of Exeter Medical School found GPs are leaving the profession at an alarming rate, mainly because of intolerable pressure upon them.
Despite government promises to recruit 5,000 more GPs by 2020, the number of doctors fell by 1,193 in the year to October 2017, NHS Digital figures show.