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Use of pharmacists in general practice being explored

The non-randomised study is testing the intervention of pharmacists in GP practices through the collection of data and information.

It involves collection of anonymised practice-level medication and cost data, as well as a Patient-Reported Outcome Measure (PROM) study to explore the impact of the intervention in patients aged over 65. 

A subset of 50 patients with significant polypharmacy (over 10 medicines) have been recruited from each practice and invited to a medication review with the pharmacist.

Data is being collected using patient questionnaires, while the study also involves a six-week follow-up review. Acceptability of the intervention will be explored using pre- and post-intervention semi-structured interviews with key stakeholders.

Quantitative and qualitative data analysis will be undertaken and an economic evaluation conducted.

Funded by the Health Research Board (HRB) and conducted by RCSI researchers, the study may lead to a randomised controlled trial (RCT).

Dr Karen Cardwell, Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the RCSI, said the study was nearing the end of data collection. Results will most likely be published early next year.

Practices were selected for inclusion based on different criteria, such as areas of economic deprivation and affluence, Dr Cardwell said.

As the GP workforce in Ireland was declining, Dr Cardwell said there was a need to diversify the skill-mix and that pharmacy was an under-utilised resource in general practice.

The introduction of pharmacists in general practice has been shown to reduce waiting times for appointments, increase patient access to healthcare, reduce medicine wastage and overuse, improve medication adherence, reduce pressure on GPs and rationalise prescribing.

A Department of Health spokesperson told the Medical Independent (MI) that the expansion of community pharmacy services was a matter its officials were considering “in the context of an evaluation of such services for Irish public patients”.

“Any expansion of services should address unmet public health needs, improve access to existing public health services delivered elsewhere or provide better value for money or patient outcomes if delivered through pharmacy.

“This issue is not part of the current phase of engagement around GMS [GP] contract discussions,” the spokesperson added.

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