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Less than half of GP pharmacists have ‘clinical’ qualification

Less than half of pharmacists working in GP surgeries in England have had access to the CPPE’s ‘clinical pharmacist’ qualification, a survey of practice-based pharmacists suggests.

The UK-wide survey of 740 pharmacists, which was carried out by the Pharmacists’ Defence Association in May and June this year, found that around 48 per cent of practice pharmacists in England had completed or were currently working towards the CPPE Clinical Pharmacists or Care Home pathway, which is funded by NHS England. Meanwhile, across the UK 85 per cent of the respondents had an independent prescriber (IP) qualification.

This inconsistency in training uptake was reflected in pharmacists’ job titles, according to the survey, with 43 per cent of practice-based pharmacists in England describing themselves as ‘clinical pharmacists’. The term was used even less in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, where ‘practice pharmacist’ and ‘practice-based pharmacist’ were more common.

The survey points to a rise in the number of pharmacists working exclusively in general practice, with 48 per cent saying they were practice-only compared to 28 per cent when the PDA ran a similar survey in 2017.

A quarter asked to work beyond expertise

The responses to the PDA survey indicate that the roles most regularly carried out by practice pharmacists include giving medicines advice to patients and other healthcare professionals, reconciling medicines after hospital discharge and patient-facing medication reviews.

While most of the respondents said they had never been asked to take on roles they were not confident to carry out, slightly over a quarter told the PDA they had experienced this.

The PDA commented that it was “notable” that the findings indicate roles and responsibilities are “very similar for all GP pharmacists,” considering less than half have had access to the CPPE qualification.

Pharmacists positive about their role

Survey respondents were broadly positive about their role and how it was perceived by colleagues and patients. Four-fifths of colleagues agreed that their surgery team “perceived their roles as providing leadership on medicines-related services and prescribing,” while a similar proportion felt the patients they dealt with viewed them as an “expert in medicines”.

Just over half felt that the formation of primary care networks would have no impact on their employment status. However, a number of respondents reported being “unsure” and some said they actively expected there would be changes to their contract.

Increasing emphasis on ‘clinical pharmacists’

In recent years, health bodies in England have placed increasing emphasis on the role of ‘clinical pharmacists’ working largely in the general practice sector. This is reflected in the establishment this year of around 1,300 primary care network areas, with a typical PCN expected to employ around five CPPE-qualified pharmacists, or one per surgery, by 2024.
 
However, to date there has been little clarity regarding how many practice-based pharmacists have completed NHSE’s clinical pharmacy qualification, and an FOI by Pharmacy Magazine earlier this year found that Health Education England does not keep records of course uptake by the sector in which pharmacists who are enrolled are working.

Pharmacy representatives have expressed concern about the impact the growing role of PCN pharmacists could have on community pharmacies and patients.

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