What is a GP Pharmacist?

17 February 2023 By Libby McCaughey

Clinical pharmacists are increasingly working as part of the General Practice (GP) team. They are highly qualified experts in medicine and can use this skill to help people in a range of different ways. Having a clinical pharmacist on the team can help to ease the workload, reduce waiting times, and improve the effectiveness of the GP practice.

What is a clinical pharmacist?

A clinical pharmacist will work with a multi-disciplinary team within a pharmaceutical practice, and they collaborate with other care professionals such as physicians and nurses to ensure that they provide correct direct patient care. They have a deep knowledge of different drugs and medicines, and clinical pharmacists are responsible for assessing a patient’s health issues and prescribing the correct medicines to help them. The role involves a high level of decision making including choosing the correct medication and instructing the patient on what they can do to improve their health. They must ensure that the patient receives the right dosage of medication as well as analysing all aspects of the treatment plan.

To become a clinical pharmacist, you will need to have completed a Pharmacy degree, which can take 3-4 years to complete. There are 3 main pharmacist roles – a staff pharmacist (who performs no clinical roles), a hybrid pharmacist (who performs dispensing and order-processing, and clinical activities occasionally), and a clinical pharmacist (who performs only clinical activities). A clinical pharmacist is not superior to the other roles, they just practice pharmacy in a different way including:

  • Providing support during diagnoses so that the medicine selection and dosage can be optimised.

  • Interacting with patients to ensure the medicine is being monitored correctly.

  • Helping healthcare providers to make smarter decisions in relation to medicine prescribing.

Essentially, it is a branch of medical care that uses medication to optimise the health outcomes of a patient.

How can a GP pharmacist help?

Clinical pharmacists working as part of the general practice team will provide expertise on day-to-day medical issues, as well as having consultations with patients directly. They are generally responsible for the care management of patients with chronic diseases and will undertake clinical medicine reviews to ensure that the medication is up to date and effective. Their role includes making sure that patients who take regular medication (such as asthma and hypertension) are using their medicine correctly and at the right dosage and ensuring that patients who have experienced a change in their health receive the right medication to suit their new needs and requirements. The GP Pharmacist is also able to help patient’s lower their dosage or stop their medication if this is clinically appropriate. The role of a GP pharmacist will include:

  • Advice for the right medication for long term illness to optimise their effects.

  • Help to make changes to patients’ lifestyles in order to stay as well as possible.

  • Reviewing medication if symptoms change.

  • Planning and management if a patient is on multiple medications.

  • Provide health checks such as blood pressure and blood tests.

  • Prescribe medication as a GP would.

Advantages of having a GP pharmacist

Clinical pharmacists have vast clinical knowledge, and their primary role is to provide the best possible care for patients using medication. However, having a clinical pharmacist as part of the GP team can make a huge difference to the practice itself.

A GP pharmacist can benefit the patient by:

  • Support patients and helping them get the best use of the medicines.

  • Identifying any medicine related issues.

  • Improving timely access to medicines for patients.

  • Deliver high quality care closer to home without a trip to a hospital.

  • Reduce patient waiting times at the practice.

  • Enable self-management of conditions.

  • Improve treatment results for patients by utilising knowledge in a general practice setting.

Not only can the general practice deliver a higher quality of patient care, but it can also benefit the team and the wider healthcare system:

  • By expanding the general practice team to include clinical pharmacists, there will be a reallocation of the workload supported by the pharmacists’ skills and knowledge.

  • It can increase the practice capacity and allow more patients to be seen and helped in a timely manner.

  • It ensures safer prescribing of medication and an overall improvement of quality of care.

  • More day appointments will be able to be allocated, meaning more patients can be seen.

  • An improved integration within the community and hospital pharmacy teams

  • It will increase the cost-effective use of medicines in the GP setting.

  • An overall optimisation of the patients journey through the NHS system.

The GP pharmacist role is relatively new after being introduced in 2015, however it has been proven to be extremely beneficial to both the practice and patients. It has made it easier for patients to get a more convenient appointment with the right health expert for their needs, without burdening the already over stretched NHS.


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