Pharmacists do an excellent job – but they must not be seen as ‘substitute’ GPs, says College

Responding to the latest Kings Fund/Nuffield Trust study on the potential for pharmacists to directly support patients with long standing conditions such as asthma and hypertension, Professor Kamila Hawthorne, Chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners, said the following:

“GPs are working under enormous workload pressures amid severe workforce shortages, so we are keen to hear about any initiatives that could improve access to care for our patients.

“Our hardworking pharmacist colleagues do an excellent job for their communities and are providing invaluable support to many GP practice teams against a backdrop of the pressures we’re under. Patients also value and trust their local pharmacists, so we are generally very supportive of them taking on greater responsibility for more routine care. We also need greater public awareness around the services and patient care that pharmacists can now offer as not every patient needs to see a GP.

“However, pharmacists are not a substitute for GPs, and the management of long-term conditions such as asthma and hypertension can be complex and can require clinical examination or near patient testing which pharmacists are currently unable to do due to a lack of facilities. Many cases are complex and require a high level of clinical understanding, along with the personalised relationship with patients that GPs are specifically trained to have.

“Also, we cannot endorse proposals to change dispensing laws to allow prescribed medicines to be given to patients without a pharmacist on the premises as this runs a real risk of compromising patient safety.

“We welcome the expansion of responsibilities for pharmacists to assist in managing some common conditions with improved prescribing powers but, as the Nuffield/Kings Fund report suggests, there would need to be wide-reaching and comprehensive changes, not only in an extension of the clinical training for pharmacists and a joined up patient record with GP services, but also greater investment and more practical measures to ensure there is sufficient space for consultations and where patients can receive confidential advice.”

Further information

RCGP press office: 0203 188 7659

Notes to editor

The Royal College of General Practitioners is a network of more than 54,000 family doctors working to improve care for patients. We work to encourage and maintain the highest standards of general medical practice and act as the voice of GPs on education, training, research and clinical standards.