There is now widespread recognition among GPs, healthcare policy makers and others of the contribution that pharmacists can make to effective patient care. This is not just recognition of the today’s practitioners but it also reflects the solid base built by pioneer clinical pharmacists over the past four decades.
There is now a generation of doctors, nurses and health service managers who have grown up alongside clinical pharmacists and who understand the value that they can add. These people are now in senior positions and so arguing the case for clinical pharmacy services is no longer the uphill task that it used to be. How refreshing it is to see the Director of Primary Care for NHS England, himself a GP, saying, “Pharmacists remain one of the most under-utilised professional resources in the system and we must bring their considerable skills in to play more fully”.
Last year, in England, we saw £31 million invested in a scheme to pilot the deployment of over 470 clinical pharmacists in just over 700 GP practices over the next three years. It is very gratifying to see how quickly NHS England has moved on to provide a further £112 million to ensure that every GP practice has access to a clinical pharmacist. This should ensure a further 1500 pharmacists in primary care by 2020.
In addition to the funding for positions, more funding has been made available in the form of a Pharmacy Integration Fund, worth £20 million in 2016/17 and rising by a further £20 million each year, to help further transform the way in which pharmacists, their teams and community pharmacy work as part of wider NHS services in their area. Future developments could include better support for GP practices, for care homes and for urgent care.
These developments will be supported by completion of the roll out of access to the summary care record to community pharmacy, by March 2017. This means that community pharmacists will have access to patients’ summary medical records and will therefore be able to tailor their input more effectively than in the past.
The majority of patient care occurs in primary care and it is right that there should be major investment in this sector. Arguably, this sector has the greatest need for clinical pharmacy services but until now there were limited opportunities for development. Roles specifically mentioned for clinical pharmacists in GP practices include streamlining prescription processes, medicines optimisation, minor ailments and management of long-term conditions.
These are services that patients will welcome and are urgently needed to ensure that we make the most effective use of modern medicines. Moreover, many of these are the types of service that we have reported in this journal over the past 20 years.
As one of the first people in the UK to wear a badge saying ‘clinical pharmacist’, I am proud to see how far we have come. Never before have I heard ‘clinical pharmacists’ mentioned so often, or so positively, in news broadcasts. Clinical pharmacy has truly come of age.