MPs turn to pharmacists to solve NHS crisis

Source: Practice Index  24.1.23

Pharmacists are not the solution to the crisis in general practice, a leading GP has said.

An All Party Parliamentary Group on Pharmacy has called for pharmacists to be given new powers and roles to help with NHS backlogs.

The Royal College of GPs said that pharmacists should not be seen as “GPs on the cheap”. The MPs’ report, launched yesterday, called for all pharmacists to be able to train as independent prescribers. It called for the Government to “harness the power of pharmacy to help the NHS deal with the COVID-19 backlog and the UK’s growing healthcare challenges”.

Chair of the Parliamentary group Taiwo Owatemi MP said: “There is a tremendous opportunity for ministers to empower local pharmacies and pharmacy teams to help even more patients and use their skills to support efforts to clear NHS backlogs. But right now, pharmacies are being squeezed by a combination of funding and workforce pressures. People are often shocked to learn how many local pharmacies are lost each year due to financial pressure. If ever there was a time to properly fund and support our pharmacies it is now.”

RCGP chair Professor Kamila Hawthorne responded: “Our high street and online pharmacist colleagues do an excellent job for their communities and are providing invaluable support to many GP practice teams against a backdrop of huge workload and workforce pressures, so it is right that they are given the support they need to stay viable and available for people with minor illnesses and ailments. Pharmacists are not a substitute for GPs and the services they provide must not be seen as ‘GPs on the cheap’. While we are keen to see initiatives that will ease the pressure on our struggling family doctor service, pharmacists should not be expected to work beyond their areas of competency, and the Government will find that their role is not a solution to the chronic shortage of GPs as many patients come to see us with more than one problem, and these can be complex.

“Pharmacy also has a workforce crisis, and their premises infrastructure will need considerable upgrading to be able to offer confidential services to patients. If implemented, this is not likely to be a money-saving option. Patients should be able to get high quality, safe, and appropriate care when they need it – and in many cases, they will need the expert diagnostic skills and expertise of a GP.”

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