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Will new Scotland funding be used to recruit new GP Pharmacists?

The £300m of new funding announced last month by the Scottish government was welcomed as the health service north of the border heads into what may be its toughest winter yet.

£28m of that funding has been allocated to primary care. But whilst the money was much needed, there was little clarity around exactly what it might be spent on. The Scottish government said that the funding was designed to support "primary care services, including optometry and dentistry as well as general practice." The fact that pharmacists were not mentioned specifically has led to questions from the pharmacy community as to whether the money might go towards increasing the number of pharmacists in GP surgeries, working as part of multi-disciplinary teams (MDTs). When questioned on this by the Pharmaceutical Journal, the Scottish government would only say that all options were under consideration, including pharmacy working in MDTs.

Government support for pharmacies has seen a somewhat mixed picture emerge, with ambitious plans and funding being followed by caution and lack of clarity. As recently as August 2021, Community Pharmacy Scotland warned that recruiting pharmacists for roles in GP surgeries risked creating a shortage of pharmacists within hospital and community pharmacists. While they were not urging a pause to recruitment, the RPS Scottish Pharmacy board said that “meaningful workforce planning” was needed.

Pharmacies throughout the UK have been instrumental in taking some strain off GPs and providing a first port of call for common minor ailments and advice on some clinical conditions. As winter approaches, and the demand for GPs hits new highs, the role of pharmacies will become ever more crucial. But earlier this year in Scotland, some of the most overstretched GP practices reported having to divert phone calls to an urgent care service, leading to some patients getting an automated message when calling.

NHS Scotland’s NHS Recovery Plan, published in August 2021, included several pharmacy-specific goals, stating its commitment that “by April 2022, we are aiming to have Board-delivered pharmacy and nursing support in all 925 of Scotland's General Practices or direct additional support to Practices where this is not the case”. Other measures included a new pharmacy woman's health and wellbeing service, and a community pharmacy hospital discharge and medicines reconciliation service.

In other news, despite the recent challenges, the Pharmacy First service in Scotland has recorded two million consultations since it began last year, with the Scottish government now looking “to expand the range of common clinical conditions that can be treated by community pharmacists,” in a bid to ease pressure on GP surgeries. Community Pharmacy Scotland have urged clarity around timelines for this expansion and the associated discharge service, but noted that “These are exciting services which will enhance the contribution of community pharmacy further and ultimately support patients who already seem to be embracing Pharmacy First.”

You can read more articles about the world of primary care on the FPM blog, where you can also fill in our 2021 Practice Manager Salary Survey. As well as gaining valuable insight into how you and your colleagues are remunerated, you will be entered into a prize draw to win an all-new Amazon Echo with Alexa 4th Generation smart speaker.


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