An innovative scheme which has changed the way community pharmacists and general practices in Sheffield work together has been shortlisted for a national award for partnership working.

The scheme, which involves more than 70 of the city’s 87 general practices, is thought to be the first project of this kind at such scale and is delivered by NHS Sheffield Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) working in partnership with Primary Care Sheffield.

It brings together community pharmacists and pharmacy technicians with GPs and local practices, enabling pharmacy colleagues to undertake some of the tasks which have otherwise been delivered by a GP – easing the pressure on GPs’ time and releasing them to focus on patients with more complex needs.

In the first five months since it launched in October last year, more than 1,400 hours of a GP’s time were released through the scheme – which adds up to over 8,000 GP appointments. The scheme has also improved communication between pharmacists and GPs, supported closer working and improved care for patients in pharmacies and GP practices, and reduced wastage of medicines when a patient no longer requires them.

The Community Pharmacists have worked with practices to take on a range of tasks that would otherwise have been carried out by GPs, including managing repeat prescriptions, carrying out medication reviews and supporting patients with long term conditions.

This is part of a range of measures piloted in Sheffield through the £9.3m Enhancing Primary Care programme, which aims to test out different ways to increase access to general practice across the city. The measures also include offering evening and weekend appointments through four ‘satellite units’ across the city.

Dr Andy Hilton, local GP and Chief Executive of Primary Care Sheffield, one of the partner organisations delivering the scheme, said: “We are delighted that the scheme has been recognised nationally for the difference it has already made to patients, general practice and pharmacists. Bringing together these different highly skilled professionals to make a better use of the resources available within the community, means that we can make sure that people receive the help and support they need to manage their health and wellbeing.”

NHS Sheffield CCG Pharmaceutical Adviser Peter Magirr said: “We know that nationwide there are workforce pressures on GPs, so as part of our plans for transforming healthcare we are really keen to ensure that other health professionals are used to their full potential. We know that pharmacists’ skills are under-used and it’s great to gain national recognition showing we are at the forefront of addressing this. Community pharmacy playing this bigger role strengthens primary care and brings real benefits to patients in Sheffield.”

Dr Keith Ridge, Chief Pharmaceutical Officer, NHS England, said: “It is critical for pharmacists and GPs to work closely together if patients are going to get optimal outcomes from their medicines. This initiative is a good example of that and will help develop a genuine multidisciplinary and seamless approach to patient care which plays to the strengths of GPs and community pharmacists alike. It sits well alongside NHS England’s initiative to help fund and pilot over 400 clinical pharmacists to work alongside GPs.”

The winner of the GP Partnership of the Year Chemist and Druggist award 2016 will be announced at an awards ceremony in June.