University of Sunderland: MSc in Clinical Pharmacy

Alexander Moore, University of Sunderland

This project comes in response to the current needs within the NHS to reduce the prescribing pressure on general practitioners (GP)1. This report notes that 6% of avoidable GP consultations could have been managed effectively by a community pharmacist. Although studies have shown that the public perceive GPs as the most suitable practitioner to deal with clinical complaints, there has been a shift in understanding of the increasingly broader role of the pharmacist.

Community pharmacists undergo five years of extensive training consisting of clinical therapeutics, pharmacology and pharmacy practice giving them an array of knowledge that can be utilised by the general public to manage minor health conditions and also give appropriate advice tailored to their long-term healthcare needs. If the skills of community pharmacists were utilised more readily, there is the potential for a reduction in GP appointments and therefore a reduction in pressure on prescribing3. Furthermore, an appointment with most pharmacists is more accessible to patients, both in terms of locality and availability4.

With recent changes in the funding structure that supports community pharmacy, there is an incentive for pharmacists to diversify the services they offer, which in turn could have positive influences on job satisfaction.

This project aims to explore and evaluate the newly implemented service GP2Pharmacy, running in South Tyneside. This service has similarities to the minor ailments service that many pharmacies provide in their local areas, however with the addition of patient group directives that allow for the provision of certain antibiotics and other prescription only medicines. The evaluation will initially involve a quantitative analysis of the consultation data, which is being recorded using an online form via the Pharmoutcomes platform. South Tyneside CCG have provided access to preliminary information collected from the first three months of the pilot scheme and agreed to the release of the complete data set in September 2019. The data will be analysed to determine the scope of the service including medications provided, conditions treated, patient groups accessing the service and reasons for non-supply or referral back to the GP.

The second part of this research will involve a focus group with community pharmacists and surgery reception staff enrolled to provide the service, in order to gather qualitative data for insight. Recruitment for this will be supported by the CCG/LPC commissioning the service. The ultimate aim is to determine service providers’ perceptions of the benefit of this service and assess whether it contributes effectively to public healthcare alongside reducing pressure on GPs. It is also hoped that this project can pave the way for a more engaged role for community pharmacies in providing access to medications through effective diagnosis and supply, reducing pressure on other NHS services.

This project ran from 01/10/2019 to 30/11/2020. The final report is available to view here.