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We need more clinical roles beyond working in GP practices

I have for some time been observing with interest since the announcement of the new pilot of pharmacists working in GP surgeries and the Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s (RPS) push for this role to grow. I believe the introduction of pharmacists working in GP surgeries is a development from the 1990s. It is not new. I was one of the first so to do rationalising asthma therapy, conducting benzodiazepine reduction clinics and developing formularies with GP practices. Savings made by rationalising prescribing more than paid for a pharmacist’s time.

In general the role developed and the commissioning organisations took over contracts of employment. Subsequently, in many cases, groups of such pharmacists were employed by private companies, some ‘not for profit’, who had successfully tendered to provide medicines management services to primary care commissioning organisations.

Those roles still exist. Those pharmacists still work in many GP surgeries.

Also, there have been pharmacists employed in surgeries as ‘quality managers’ and, in some cases, practice managers, ensuring that the practice achieves its maximum quality and outcomes framework points, etc.

While I applaud the push for clinical roles for pharmacists, why does the RPS campaign for clinical pharmacists in GP surgeries alone? Perhaps it should be campaigning for and pointing out the availability of clinical pharmacists in pharmacies instead. Pharmacies are the obvious place to manage patients and the funds to do so could come from savings in secondary care spending on unnecessary admissions to hospital.

And are we setting our sights too low? We deserve and are capable of doing more clinical roles. How about campaigning for a national minor ailment service in pharmacies, as opposed to, for example, competing with GPs to deliver influenza vaccinations? In a GP surgery, vaccinations are handled by healthcare assistants of national vocational qualification level one — a lower requirement than pharmacy counter assistants. Yet we are pushing for pharmacists to do this in a pharmacy. Are we happy with this or just grateful that we have a new service?

Joseph Anthony Schofield

Sunderland

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2016.20200645

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