More and more practices are considering recruiting a pharmacist to help with workload, particularly with the new funding available through primary care networks (PCNs). This may seem like a good idea, but you need to think carefully about what you want a pharmacist to do; it can be a very different role in different places. They could:
· See patients with minor illness
· Manage chronic diseases
· Deal with medication queries
· Help with audits
· Assist with managing patients’ prescriptions
· Help with medicines management and formulae development
· Educate trainees and staff on medicine matters
· Ensure that the practice monitors its repeat medications appropriately
· Manage the purchasing of medicines.
As there such a variety of activities it is important that the practice decides what would help them, and then look for an individual who has the right skills. This may well help you to decide on the next step, which is the best way to employ them.
There are three different ways that a practice might consider:
2. Direct employment
3. Employing via your PCN.
Employee or partner?
Deciding whether to employ a pharmacist or make them a partner involves similar considerations to those when you think about recruiting a salaried GP or a partner. You have more control of what an employee does and the hours that they work. A partner will share the risks and rewards of the business with the other partners and may be required to invest in the business.
Remember that partnership is a much longer term commitment than employment; you need to be sure that they are the right person for the practice and that this new role is going to work. Employment may be less risky for both parties; if it goes well you can always offer partnership in the future.
Employing via the PCN – funding
If you decide that you want to employ a pharmacist through your PCN you may be able to get some funding. The maximum is 70% of the cost. However, you will have to share your pharmacist with the other practices, which will mean that you will need to employ someone who suits all the practices, not just your own. In these early days of PCNs the pros and cons of employing staff in this way are unclear, but as an individual practice you will have less control over that individual than if you employ them directly.
Starting out or experienced?
Pharmacy training has changed dramatically over recent years and is now more focused on producing people that will make excellent practice pharmacists. So you may find that a recent graduate pharmacist has all the skills you need.
Rates of pay
At the bottom end of the scale, you will have to pay a salary of around £35,000 for someone working full-time, fresh out of pre-registration training. At the top it will be £50,000 or more.
Some pharmacists are independent prescribers but there are not many of these. It is very important for you to set out in your job advert whether this is an essential or merely desirable characteristic. Offering to support a pharmacist while they get their prescribing qualification may make your job more attractive. However, there is a cost in time and money and one of your doctors must be prepared to supervise them while they are doing the course.
In these early stages there are two relevant types of staff PCNs will be encouraged to employ: social prescribers and pharmacists. This is likely to create a shortage of skilled pharmacists, increasing the wages that they expect to be paid. There are supposed to be an excess of pharmacists at the moment, but this is not the case across the whole country. So, if you are considering employing a practice pharmacist it would be sensible to act as soon as possible.
Finding the right person
The fit with your team will determine how successful they are in the role. It is important to consider who they are going to be working with and reporting to. If these relationships don’t work well then it can be a disaster.
To get the best candidate, you should:
1. Offer a competitive salary. See what local pharmacies and hospitals are offering
2. Think about being flexible about the hours they need to work
3. Make the job description very clear
4. Offer some form of development opportunities.
Employing a practice pharmacist can be a real boost to your team, assisting with workload, perhaps even saving money or developing new income streams in areas where their expertise can spot opportunities – as well as providing an even better service for patients.
Dr Richard West is a GP in Suffolk and Chair of the Dispensing Doctors Association.