700 GP practices benefit as NHS doubles funding for pilot

The decision to expand the scheme is due to ‘overwhelmingly positive responses’ from GPs and the recruitment of 403 clinical pharmacists, hired to begin immediately for a Spring 2016 launch.

NHS England has announced that the pilots will cover 83 practices in London, 230 in the South of England, 183 in the Midlands and 203 in the North. Overall the project will span across a population of 7.6 million patients.

The scheme will run for three years and NHS England will subsidise 60 per cent of the costs for the first 12 months, including a ‘training programme’. After one year, funding will drop to 40 per cent and then 20 per cent.

Practices which already employ pharmacists have reported they play an ‘invaluable role’ in alleviating GP workload by assuming tasks involving the management of medicines and freeing up GP time to focus on patients with increasingly complex care needs.

While GPs welcomed the swift implementation of the scheme to support the acute workforce crisis, they counselled more time needed to be dedicated to the recruitment and retention of GPs in general practice.

In a statement, NHS England advised that pilots were chosen based on their potential to improve GP access and reduce workload.

It said: “Additional funding was found to more than double the number of supported applications after the panels were impressed by the outstanding quality of responses.”

The pilot was developed as part of an ongoing NHS England, Health Education England, the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) and the General Practice Committee (GPC) ten point GP workforce plan. The plan promoted the aim of expanding general practice teams to properly take advantage of physician associates and advanced nurse practitioners.

GPC chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said the pilots were a ‘positive and important opportunity’ to relieve some of the pressure on GPs and should be available to all practices.

He said: "We need to ensure that the benefits from these pilots can be extended to all practices nationally, so that GPs can be supported to have the time to see the increasing numbers of patients with complex and long-term conditions, and in order to provide quality and accessible care."

RCGP chair Professor Maureen Baker said: "The feedback that we have received from our members who already have a practice based pharmacist is that they play an invaluable role, so we are pleased that NHS England has taken the idea so seriously and so swiftly brought it to fruition."

NHS England chief executive, Simon Stevens, said the pilot would be a ‘win-win for GPs, pharmacists and patients’. He added: “By testing these new ways of working across professional boundaries we are taking another step forward to relieving some of the pressure that GPs are clearly under and ensuring patients see the health professional that best suits their needs.”

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