GP pharmacists grow into role

students in library studying

Researchers saw increased levels of perceived competence and confidence, particularly in those who had an independent prescriber qualification or additional training, UK study finds

Training and educational support for those entering new roles as pharmacists in general practice led to increased competence and confidence over time, UK researchers have found.

The UK has received considerable investment into pharmacists working in general practice since 2015.

In England, there are approximately 500 pharmacists working in general practice.

Furthermore between 2015 and 2018, the Scottish government funded 140 pharmacists to work in general practices across the country.

These pharmacists underwent bespoke training from 2016 to 2017 that had been developed by NHS Education Scotland, which was delivered via face-to-face events, but also included ongoing access to e-learning.

There was also a range of courses available to pharmacists including independent prescribing courses and clinical assessment skills.

UK researchers evaluated the educational support provided for the three cohorts of pharmacists working in general practice (n= 135), measuring the development of self-assessed confidence and competence across the educational program.

Across the sample, a third were aged under 29 years, nearly 40% were aged 30-39 years, nearly 20% were aged 40-49 years, and 10% were over 50 years.

More came from community pharmacy than hospital pharmacy, with two thirds of the sample having over five years of community pharmacy experience, according to the study published in the International Journal of Pharmacy Practice.

Approximately a third were independent prescribers and a third were undergoing the course.

Over 93% were either satisfied or very satisfied with the training they received.

Participants described changes to practice since training, including increased clinical and consultation skills (‘increased patient contact’), improved teamwork, communication and support (‘lots of interaction with GPs’, ‘integrated into practice team’) and more autonomy (‘less supervision by GP’).

Participants reported that experience, confidence and competence in the role developed with time.

“Feel more competent as now have more experience on the job,” said one pharmacist.

“More time in practice” led to “know[ing] the team and processes more,” said another.

Support from an experienced practice pharmacist, including formal mentorship, facilitated the development of confidence and competence, others said.

Pharmacists who were independent prescribers or were undertaking the course, or had further health board training or support at least six months into the post, had significantly greater perceived competence as well as confidence.

Meanwhile those aged 20-39 years considered themselves to be significantly less competent in their day-to-day role in general practice than those over 50 years.

“Pharmacists highlighted clinical and patient communication-based work as the most professional satisfying and expressed a desire for further and ongoing training in this,” said the researchers.

“Being either an independent prescriber or already on an independent prescriber course were predictors of higher self-assessed competence,” they highlighted, pointing out that such courses cover clinical and communication skills in detail.

In Australia, the number of GP pharmacists is currently estimated to be in excess of 100.

To support this career path, the PSA offers a general practice pharmacist foundation training program.

The program consists of 12 online modules covering topics such as integrating into the general practice team, learning about MBS Item numbers, clinical governance and more.

However in Australia pharmacists are currently unable to be independent prescribers.

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