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While some of the GPFV’s (General Practice Forward View) work is only just getting off the ground, the working group on which I represent the BMA GPs committee – the clinical pharmacists’ working group – appears to be making good progress. Phase two of the scheme builds on an initial pilot phase initiated as part of the GP workforce 10-point plan. The GPFV commits to introducing an additional 1,500 clinical pharmacists in general practice by 2020-21 and, on the evidence so far, this appears achievable.
Practices can apply for funding to help recruit, train and develop more clinical pharmacists. Successful bidders will receive funding for three years to recruit and establish them in their general practices, long term. This does mean that NHS England funding is time limited with decrements over three years, and therefore a plan about how to proceed after the funding expires is essential. The first wave of applications for phase two has led to the approval of 219 whole-time equivalent places in general practice for clinical pharmacists, putting the programme ahead of schedule. Once recruited, these clinical pharmacists will be working across 750 practices covering a population of six million. Some of the approved bidders have built the potential to extend the local provision of clinical pharmacists over time once they have got the scheme up and running into their agreements.
In wave one, 45 of 201 applications were approved, but crucially this doesn’t mean that the failed applications will go to waste. NHS England is working with the failed bidders to see if their bids can be brought in line with the selection criteria.
Clinical pharmacists working in general practice have the potential to reduce workload, improve patient experience and improve healthcare outcomes. It may be that in 20 years’ time, GPs will look back on the time before resident clinical pharmacists in the same way that it is now unthinkable that practices functioned without practice nurses.
The deadline to be considered as part of wave two of the applications is May 12 – more information on the scheme and how to go about applications can be accessed at NHS England.
Mike Parks is a member of the BMA GPs committee and a representative for the clinical pharmacists’ working group