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The advantages of hiring an in-house pharmacist in your GP practice

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A few months ago, back in April of 2016, we published a blog post that described the future of primary healthcare as a portfolio business. GP practices with a limited service are putting themselves at risk of being superseded by a rapidly changing healthcare market. Strategies suggested in that article for developing a portfolio practice included:

  • Extending services from the traditional GP role
  • Developing effective partnerships
  • Changing how on-the-day demand is managed

An increasingly popular evolution is hiring an in-house pharmacist, and there are many advantages of doing so – for both the business of the practice and the healthcare of its patients. Here we look at a few of these advantages and how they might benefit your GP practice.

Can a pharmacist offer complementary clinical skills?

Perhaps the key question for many GPs is if a pharmacist will complement existing clinical skills in the practice. Pharmacists are highly educated, well-trained employees. They’re trusted by the public. Their healthcare education and experience brings with it the following qualities and capabilities:

  • Expertise in clinical medical reviews
  • Patient monitoring (especially of those taking high-risk medicines)
  • Medicinal reconciliation after hospital discharge
  • Management of repeat prescription
  • Handling medicine queries from patients and healthcare professionals
  • Screening and diagnosis
  • Monitoring of patients with long-term conditions
  • Training of practice staff in medicines and drugs
  • Patient triage
  • Home visits

The potential work a pharmacist can do within your practice does not end here. He or she could relieve the pressure by helping with immunisations, NHS health checks, screening for dementia, and conducting tests such as spirometry phlebotomy.

The advantages for the GP practice

With such a wide-ranging education and experience, a pharmacist may be the ideal solution to not only bring extra skills to the business, but also reduce GP workload. In practices that have employed pharmacists, it’s not unusual for the pharmacist to cover as many as 40 patient appointments in a day. They provide a route for practices to offer more flexible cover, and can help with preparation for CQC inspections and clinical audits.

The benefits for the GP practice and its patients

Of course, an extra pair of hands with healthcare skills to be used in clinical audits and CQC inspections preparation is always welcomed. You’ll benefit from greater effectiveness and efficiency in these important areas. In addition, the benefits to the practice include:

  • Better trained staff, more adept in prescribing and understanding medicines
  • More flexible cover, allowing you to reduce patient waiting times
  • Patients have increased and more flexible access to healthcare
  • A more holistic and rounded healthcare experience helps to improve patient health outcomes

Benefits do not come without challenges

Whichever innovative strategies, processes and procedures you employ, the benefits will only be seen after understanding and overcoming the challenges of innovation.

An in-house pharmacist is an alien concept to most. Your team will need to be educated as to what advantages and benefits a pharmacist will bring, and also how to make full use of the new member of staff. This will probably hold true for many patients, too, who will be unaware of how to use a pharmacist within their GP practice.

To overcome this challenge, the pharmacist could offer in-house training – perhaps in team meetings – and become involved in the community focus of the practice.

With the right focus, an in-house pharmacist could soon become an identifiable and sought after resource within your practice. Could your practice benefit from a pharmacist’s skillset that complements those of your GPs and nurses? Let us know what you think by sending in your comments.

eSupplies Medical is a trading name of Williams Medical Supplies Ltd, a DCC business