Integrating pharmacists into General Practice could help relieve doctors’ workloads and improve prescription safety, a study at the University of Sunderland has revealed.

The research, funded by Pharmacy Research (PRUK), explored the attitudes and perceptions of GPs to pharmacist-led care in general practice, identifying potential barriers and the channels to the integration of pharmacists in the service.

The research was conducted by Tahmina Rokib, Senior Lecturer in the University of Sunderland’s Faculty of Health Sciences and Wellbeing and is particularly appropriate given the current pressures on primary care services within the NHS and difficulties in recruiting and retaining sufficient doctors and nurses.

The study concluded that GPs believe integration of pharmacists in general practice can:

–       Reduce GP workload,

–       Improve prescribing safety

–       Improve medicines optimisation.

In particular pharmacist independent prescribers were perceived to have a wider scope of practice and a greater impact on workload pressures.

Negative professional attitudes and a lack of confidence in pharmacists’ clinical aptitude were thought to be potential barriers to the integration of pharmacists in this setting; however, it is thought that this can be overcome by team work and being jointly located, as well as further pharmacist training.

This study provides insight into the attitudes and perceptions of GPs to pharmacist led care in general practice. The findings demonstrate the perceived benefits of the integration of pharmacists, the scope of practice as well as the perceived barriers and facilitators to the integration of pharmacists’ in general practice.

Academic Practitioner Tahmina said:  “There are a lot of perceptions about pharmacist led care in general practice, from the work they should be doing to whether GPs actually want them there. My research was about capturing the views of GPs and focusing on exactly what they want.

“One of those areas was improving medicines optimisation – ensuring patients are making the best use of their medicines, minimising side effects from medication as well as preventing potential waste of NHS resources.”

Tahmina’s findings may inform future planning, development and implementation of this emerging role, both at an individual practice level and nationally.

Scott Wilkes part-time GP Principal at Coquet Medical Group in Northumberland and a Professor of General Practice and Primary Care at the University of Sunderland, commented: “Tahmina’s Masters project has given some unique insights into the attitudes and perceptions of GPs towards pharmacist led care in general practice. Among the key messages to come out were the desire of GPs to have pharmacists in general practice in patient-facing NHS roles helping to meet the demands of the general population.

“However, GPs still lack clarity on the ability and the role which pharmacists could fulfil in general practice. I suspect this finding will also be shown in the evaluation of the national programme where pharmacists are employed in general practices throughout the UK but deployed in a number of different ways. Tahmina is to be congratulated on her work and her team are currently writing up for peer reviewed academic publication.”