Patients in the Rhondda are benefitting from regular medication reviews, longer appointments and specialist knowledge, thanks to the success of a pharmacist role aimed at easing pressure on GPs.
Irram Irshad, who works in several GP surgeries in the Rhondda valleys, is one of a number of cluster pharmacists brought in across Cwm Taf as part of the wider health team.
Her job includes monitoring patients’ conditions, checking blood test results, reviewing medication and making referrals, as well as liaising with community colleagues to solve the ‘shopping list’ of problems patients often tell her about.
“My role gives patients another professional they can see, someone who’s an expert in medication,” said Irram, who divides her time between St Andrew’s Surgery in Tonypandy, Cwm Gwyrdd in Gilfach Coch and New Tynewydd in Treherbert.
“I help monitor patients with long term chronic conditions, to take some of the pressure off the GPs and free them up to work with more complex cases and acutely unwell patients. As a prescribing pharmacist, I can make alterations to their medications, recall them for monitoring and refer to secondary care. If there’s a problem I can’t deal with, I’ll ask the GP.”
Irram’s medical review appointments last 30 minutes, allowing more time to talk than during a routine GP slot.
She said: “I review the medications and question whether they are appropriate or if there’s an effective alternative. I have the blood test results in front of me so I have the full picture. But it’s not always about the medication. Patients come to me with a shopping list of problems, such as not having had hospital results.
“There’s also a huge social element; people are living alone and are maybe not eating properly, especially if they are diabetic, isolated or have mental health issues. In these cases I can refer them to Lucy, the wellbeing co-ordinator. Before Lucy was in post, I was trying to solve these issues myself, but now we work closely together. It’s about keeping patients fit and well at home, so they don’t go into hospital wherever possible.”
The cluster pharmacists have embedded well in Cwm Taf, with great feedback from patients and GPs alike.
Irram, who used to work as a hospital pharmacist, said: “Cwm Taf has been one of the first to take this on and is really running with it. I’m very lucky that Cwm Taf has been so proactive and I feel so supported.
“The patients are now starting to ring up and say ‘I want to speak to Irram’, and nine times out of 10 I can answer their question for them, without them having to wait for a call back from the GP. It’s benefitting not only patients but GPs, the health board and the NHS in general.”
Patient Huw Williams, 79, from Treorchy, has regular reviews with Irram following prostate cancer.
“Irram has been giving me the results of my blood tests and keeping an eye on my medication, checking up on their benefits to me,” said Mr Williams. “If I felt I needed to see a GP I would make an appointment, but otherwise I’m perfectly happy to see Irram as I have a very good service from her.’
Dr John Thomas, one of three GPs in St Andrew’s Surgery, said: “The cluster pharmacist role has had a huge impact on our workload as Irram is able to do many things we used to do.
“She does them very well and without supervision, such as medical reviews, which required a huge amount of our time that we can now use to see patients. She looks at the discharge medication that comes from hospital and she can also treat people on blood thinners. She has reduced referrals to hospital by three quarters and she’s very proactive.”
The cluster pharmacists are just some of the healthcare professionals that patients may see in their local community. To find out more, follow #YourLocalTeam news on social media.