Pharmacy services must not be seen as substitutes for GPs, says College Chair

College Chair Professor Kamila Hawthorne has issued the following response to a new report by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Pharmacy, calling for action to relieve funding pressures for pharmacists and new powers to help with NHS backlogs.

Professor Hawthorne said:
“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. Latest NHS figures hammer home how GPs and our teams are working harder than ever. The average full-time GP is caring for 120 more patients than they were in 2019. Yet over the same period, we have 737 fewer fully qualified, full-time equivalent GPs working in the NHS.

“We need the Government to address the workforce crisis in general practice by devising and implementing a recruitment and retention strategy. That will go beyond the 6,000 GPs promised and make GP workload more manageable by reducing unnecessary red tape and bureaucracy.

“We must also see a return to 11% of the total health spend in general practice, and investment in our IT systems and premises, so that GPs and their teams can deliver the care our patients need."

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Notes to editors

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.