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Pharmacists aim to create new role

People with long-term chronic illnesses may be seen by a pharmacist instead of a GP in years to come.

People wanting help with lifestyle changes including giving up smoking, or who suffer from long-term health conditions, or who want health advice could find themselves being seen by a pharmacist trained to prescribe medicines.

The idea is being piloted in parts of Hampshire but pharmacists are aware they have to win the hearts and minds of both GPs and patients if they are to develop a bigger role.

University of Portsmouth lecturer and pharmacist Stephen Inns is currently one of just two doctor-funded pharmacists in Hampshire trained to prescribe drugs. He is among the UK's first cohort of independent prescribing pharmacists. He works alongside GPs in a cardiovascular clinic for two sessions a week and the other two days teaches tomorrow's pharmacists.

He said: "We are building bridges with primary care trusts, and GPs in particular, to open up the way pharmacists can take on a greater role in healthcare.

"If you say 'pharmacist' to most people they think of the chemist shop on the high street. What most people don't know is pharmacists are extremely knowledgeable about medicines and many GPs ask pharmacists for advice about new medicines or the ways medicines interact with each other.

"We also have training in patient care and many of our students studying pharmacy want to be able to fully use their extensive knowledge about medicines to help patients."

Your comments: (Terms and conditions apply)

"As a practice we employ our own pharmacist who is a qualified independent prescriber. During her two days a week with us she conducts med reviews for the elderly, runs an asthma and CHD clinic and initiates hypertensive agents. She organises bloods, ECGs and 24hr BP recordings. Surprisingly she has been doing this for at least a couple of years initially with CMPs but now in her own right. It would appear that up here pharmacists are ahead of their colleagues down south and just goes to show how un-joined up primary care can be" - Sue Clover, Prestwood House Surgery, Swadlincote