The process for GP surgeries to apply for funding for clinical pharmacists has recently been updated. The aim is to make the process more straightforward and to encourage more people to take up the profession and ease the strain on the NHS.
From October last year, the criteria relating to the pharmacist to population ratio changed from 1 to 30,000 patients, to 1 to 15,000 patients. This allows smaller surgeries to employ specialist staff to work alongside them and larger surgeries to take on more qualified staff. Other changes include allowing pharmacists to work part-time and still qualify for funding, which up until now was not an option due to the criteria relating to working hours.
NHS England confirmed the changes to the criteria in a letter sent nationally to all GP practices and invited those who had previously been denied funding, to reapply and those already qualifying for funding to apply for additional funding. This means all surgeries can extend their service and operate a more efficient service for their patients.
The changes have been welcomed by all medical professionals and it is hoped more pharmacists will be encouraged to work within multidisciplinary teams at their local GP practices.
For surgeries taking on pharmacists for the first time, extra space and equipment, such as pharmacy fridges, might be needed. As an example, Fridge Freezer Direct provide pharmacy fridges, and these will need to be accommodated. New procedures will also need to be introduced,and the changes will need to be communicated to patients. It is hoped that by giving patients the option of collecting their prescriptions at the same time as seeing their GP, surgeries can offer a better service within their community.
The Scottish Government has recently announced a commitment of £2.85 million investment towards helping to train student pharmacists. The funding will support experiential learning within local communities including, hospitals, health centres and other medical institutions.
Official NHS England figures show that there are currently approximately 580 clinical pharmacists who work within GP surgeries and the aim is for this figure to rise to more than 1,500 by 2021. In order to achieve this goal, NHS England has made a substantial financial commitment demonstrating its belief in the project and recognising that change is needed. This is welcome news for medical staff and patients alike.