Pharmacists 'could ease pressure on GPs'

Pharmacists 'could ease pressure on GPs'

Patients at GPs across the country could be treated by pharmacists to ease the pressure on health services and improve care.

Under the new proposals, the pharmacists would work alongside GPs and other colleagues to resolve day-to-day medicine issues, particularly for patients with long-term conditions and who are taking several different medications.

It is claimed the measure would improve patient safety and care while reducing waiting times for GP appointments.

The Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) and the Royal Pharmaceutical Society have put forward the plans in response to a "severe shortage" of GPs.

An ageing population and the rise in the number of long-term and complex conditions have increased the pressure on surgeries, with GPs expected to make 370 million patient consultations this year - 70 million more than five years.

While the number of GPs has failed to keep pace with rising demand, there is currently an oversupply of pharmacists, who train as clinicians for five years - one year less than a doctor, one year more than a nurse - and would be able to treat patients directly.

The move would build on the already close relationship between GPs and pharmacists, with the latter becoming part of the general practice team.

Dr Maureen Baker, chair of the RCGP, said the country has a "hidden army" of pharmacists that could help to reduce waiting times.

"Patients with long-term conditions such as asthma or diabetes with complex medicine needs would particularly benefit from having a pharmacist to help them navigate the conflicting and confusing information they sometimes receive about their treatment as they move between hospital and community care," she remarked.

The RCGP is calling for the NHS budget for general practice to be raised from eight per cent to 11 per cent by 2017 and for 8,000 more GPs in England by the end of the next parliament.