GPs and pharmacists need to develop trusting relationships, study finds
Press release issued: 11 February 2020
GPs and pharmacists work best together when they understand and value one another's expertise, according to a new study by researchers at the Centre for Academic Primary Care at the University of Bristol.
The research, published in the British Journal of General Practice today [11 February], asked GPs and pharmacists about their views on what helps and what hinders them from working together to make the best use of medicines for patients with multiple health problems.
The study found that 'knowing each other' and a good working relationship were key to working together well. GPs in practices that employed a pharmacist tended to value pharmacists' professional expertise more than GPs in practices without one, while pharmacists who were not known to GPs felt under-valued.
Thirteen GPs and ten pharmacists were interviewed for the study.
There were mixed views about whether a practice-employed pharmacist was good value for money and differences in opinion about what the practice pharmacists' role should be.
GPs had mixed views about whether pharmacists should have the authority to make changes to patients' medicines, with some GPs valuing pharmacists' knowledge of medicines but preferring to remain in control of the decisions. Pharmacists who were not attached to a practice described some difficult relationships with GPs, where they felt poorly understood and underused.
GPs reported that pharmacist-led medicine reviews were unlikely to impact much on GP workload as GPs were doing these in a time efficient way, for example during a ten minute appointment alongside other problems. Pharmacists would require more time, for example during a 20-minute appointment focused just on medicines. Other tasks that had a greater impact on reducing GP workload, such as sorting out prescription requests, took priority for pharmacists.
Dr Polly Duncan, lead author and a GP and National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) In-Practice Fellow at the Centre for Academic Primary Care, said: "Many UK GP practices now employ a pharmacist to help with workload pressures but little is known about how GPs and pharmacists work together. Pharmacists could play an important role in making sure that patients who have multiple health problems are happy to take their medicines and that the benefits outweigh any potential harm or side effects.
"Our study suggests that building trusting relationships through face-to-face meetings between GPs and pharmacists is key to understanding and valuing one another's expertise. This was a small qualitative study and more research is needed to establish the roles of practice pharmacists and whether they improve patient health outcomes."
'Barriers and enablers to collaborative working between GPs and pharmacists: a qualitative interview study' by Polly Duncan, Matthew J Ridd, Deborah McCahon, Bruce Guthrie and Christie Cabral in British Journal of General Practice
About the Centre for Academic Primary Care, University of Bristol
The Centre for Academic Primary Care (CAPC) at the University of Bristol is a leading centre for primary care research in the UK, one of nine forming the NIHR School for Primary Care Research. It sits within Bristol Medical School, an internationally recognised centre of excellence for population health research and teaching.
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About the National Institute for Health Research
The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) is the nation's largest funder of health and care research. The NIHR:
- funds, supports and delivers high quality research that benefits the NHS, public health and social care
- engages and involves patients, carers and the public in order to improve the reach, quality and impact of research
- attracts, trains and supports the best researchers to tackle the complex health and care challenges of the future
- invests in world-class infrastructure and a skilled delivery workforce to translate discoveries into improved treatments and services
- partners with other public funders, charities and industry to maximise the value of research to patients and the economy.
The NIHR was established in 2006 to improve the health and wealth of the nation through research, and is funded by the Department of Health and Social Care. In addition to its national role, the NIHR supports applied health research for the direct and primary benefit of people in low- and middle-income countries, using UK aid from the UK government.