Community pharmacy could find itself playing a greater role in the delivery of primary care with more GPs relying on its services in the new National Health Service order.

According to the findings of a Pfizer-sponsored survey of 200 GPs, 40% said they will rely on local community pharmacists more in the future for services, while 80% recognised the profession's expert knowledge of medicine.

The majority of family doctors (81%) believe pharmacists are valued members of the healthcare professional team and that involving them in the health service commissioning could boost the cost effectiveness of care, while 50% thought involving pharmacy would help them to better deliver patient focused care.

On the downside, however, the survey also uncovered that 32% of family doctors believe pharmacists "are working beyond their competencies in providing services", and a substantial portion - 49% - said they prefer certain services, such as monitoring, to be undertaken by themselves of practice nurses. 

Ian Hunter, Pharmacy Strategy Development Manager at Pfizer, said it is reassuring that GPs value the role pharmacy plays and support the expansion of its role in primary care. However, "to positively shape the future of pharmacy, pharmacists working on the frontline need to work with both their local GP colleagues and the leaders of their professional organisations to address GP misconceptions raised in this new research,” he stressed.

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain said its vision for pharmacy is that pharmacists "should be the universally accessible frontline clinical provider of all aspects of pharmaceutical care and be responsible for all aspects of medicines use". 

Underutilised experts?

Pharmacists are the experts in medicines, and this knowledge can be utilised to reduce medicines waste and unplanned hospital admissions as well as improve medicines adherence to help secure better patient outcomes, it notes, highlighting that the potential of the profession is still being underutilised.

Late last year a research paper - by The Bow Group Health Policy Committee - found that more than £1 billion could be saved by the NHS through better use of pharmacists in improving outcomes in public health and long-term conditions.

It also called for “sustained efforts” to improve and cement GP/pharmacist relations, and for local pharmacists to be representated within local GP consortia and on local Health and Wellbeing Boards “to help optimise the local integration of patient care”.