From challenges to solutions for GP pharmacists

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Primary Care

From challenges to solutions for GP pharmacists

Strategies for supporting GP pharmacists

Even the best plans seldom survive contact with reality. So it is with GP pharmacists, judging by a recent survey carried out by The Pharmacists Defence Association (PDA).

The results reveal a litany of problems - inadequate inductions, poor training and supervision, and unsafe and unsuitable work locations, to name but a few.

Unveiling the issues

These are not minor issues. GP pharmacists reported having to conduct consults in open plan offices, risking patient confidentiality, and being told to take annual leave in order to complete mandatory training. It’s hardly a shock that many surveyed by the PDA reported feeling unsupported and undervalued. This is not how things should be. 

What is particularly worrying about the PDA’s results is that GP pharmacists have been part of the landscape now for nearly a decade, and their numbers are growing. These are not the teething troubles of a recently introduced initiative. So what has gone wrong, and more importantly, how can we fix it? 

Understanding the root cause

GP pharmacists make sense both for practices and their patients. By employing clinical pharmacists, many practices have been able to reduce waiting times, cut locum costs, reduce the wastage and overuse of medicines, and even reduce A&E admissions. With so much to gain, it’s important to understand how practices can support and nurture GP pharmacists, and by doing so, better serve their patients. 

But it is important not to blame practices for these problems. The roots lie in the systemic issues that have bedevilled primary care for decades. Outdated buildings, an overstretched workforce, ever-increasing patient demand... Is it any surprise that clinical supervision, training and line management can often fall by the wayside? 

And it’s not just GP pharmacists that lose out. The introduction and integration of multidisciplinary teams generally, while a positive development overall, poses a significant challenge for practices given the enormous workload that GPs and practice staff face. 

So what is the solution? GP pharmacists will join practices with a diverse range of backgrounds and experiences, so it's important to recognise that they will likely require varying levels of support, particularly if they are new to primary care.

How practices can support GP pharmacists

Putting a few simple structures and processes in place, with clear lines of responsibility, can help everyone feel better supported, and improve standards of care. 

  • GP contacts for daily practice: It's vital that pharmacists have direct access to GPs or other appropriate healthcare professionals to help with patient-related queries. This could be a duty doctor or another allied health professional. This will ensure that pharmacists can promptly address care issues as they arise.
  • GP mentorship: Regular mentorship and debriefing sessions with a GP mentor are important for GP pharmacists, particularly those at the beginning of their career - sessions can be structured to occur more frequently for new pharmacists.
  • Work-based assessments: These can serve as a tool for both GP pharmacists and their mentors to track development and identify areas for improvement.
  • Senior pharmacist peer support: In addition to GP mentorship, support from a senior pharmacist can help to further boost skills and confidence. This can be one-to-one mentoring or group sessions, and provides a platform for shared learning, exchange of ideas, and the discussion of common challenges.
  • Local networks for education and support: Encourage GP pharmacists to join local networks. This is an excellent way to engage in continuous education and receive peer support, and can be great for sharing best practice and building professional connections.

Of course, putting such processes in place requires time, a resource that we all know is in short supply for most clinicians.

Harnessing digital solutions for support

This is where capacity building digital solutions such as Suvera can help. By providing digital tools and additional clinical expertise for GP practices, Suvera can help staff make the time to ensure all practice members feel valued and supported - including GP pharmacists. 

Suvera can reduce pressure on practices by helping patients manage long-term conditions, giving them access to an app that suggests lifestyle changes and supports easy telephone and video consultations. 

Our intuitive patient app allows patients to submit health data from home, such as blood pressure, height and weight readings, offering a convenient, time-saving solution for practices, and people living with long-term conditions.

Ultimately, a prescribing pharmacist, overseen by a Suvera GP, can take end-to-end responsibility for patient condition management and medication review. This includes updating patient records with the correct QOF and IIF codes, thus creating more time for practice staff to spend on staff development, mentoring and wellbeing. 

Everyone should feel valued at work, and a happy, well-supported clinical workforce can only have a positive impact on patient care. And there is a real risk that, by failing to support staff, increased stress and burnout will see more valuable clinicians moving abroad or even quitting altogether, which will only make matters worse. 

Integrating digital solutions can help free up the time to ensure all clinical staff - including GP pharmacists - receive the help and support they need to thrive. Let’s hope that by doing so, next year’s PDA survey makes for more positive reading.