A study has shown concluded that specialist clinical pharmacists are safe and effective in supporting general practitioners (GPs) and practices with key prescribing activities in order to directly free GP capacity. However, the study is clear on the fact that further work is required to assess the impact of such service developments on prescribing cost-efficiency and clinical pharmacist medication review work.
The small prospective observational cohort study was undertaken in sixteen urban general practices in Inverclyde in Scotland. The background to the study is that general practice in the UK is experiencing a workforce crisis. However, it is unknown what impact prescribing support teams may have on freeing up GP capacity and time for clinical activities. The aim of this project was to release GP time by providing additional prescribing resources to support general practices between April 2016 and March 2017.
As part of the study GPs recorded the time they spent dealing with special requests, immediate discharges, outpatient requests, and other prescribing issues for two weeks prior to the study and for two equivalent periods during the study. Specialist clinical pharmacists performed these key prescribing activities to release GP time and ‘read coded’ their activities. GP and practice staff were surveyed to assess their expectations at baseline and their experiences during the final data-collection period. Prescribing support staff were also surveyed during the study period.
GP time spent on key prescribing activities significantly reduced by 51% per week, equating to 4.9 hours per week per practice. The additional clinical pharmacist resource was well received and appreciated by GPs and practices. As well as freeing up GP capacity, practices and practitioners also identified improvements in patient safety, positive effects on staff morale, and reductions in stress. Prescribing support staff also indicated that the initiative had a positive impact on job satisfaction and was considered sustainable, although practice expectations and time constraints created new challenges.