THERE have been a number of occasions in recent history where pharmacy has appeared on the verge of making a leap from its traditional dispensing role into new and exciting avenues; and it appears that the profession is at such a point again.
From Scotland’s 10-year plan to any number of recent articles from organisations like the NHS Confederation, Nuffield Trust and the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS), pharmacy publications have highlighted pharmacists’ key roles, and their potential future roles.
There has also been a stated desire for increased multi-professional communication and understanding, leading to a more joined-up model of healthcare and smoother patient journey, not only between primary and secondary care, but also between different healthcare providers laterally within the same tier.
A key driver for this pharmacy ‘upgrade’ is an impending healthcare crisis. The Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) has stated its fears of an impending GP workforce crisis amid a backdrop of dwindling numbers of practice nursing staff, a changing and increasing population with complex healthcare needs that have to be cared for within the NHS ethos of ‘no decision about me, without me’. There appears to be a realisation that in pharmacists, the NHS has a workforce more than capable of filling the void.
Of course, a key problem at the moment is that there is little communication between the various professions, severely hindering any large-scale attempt at multi-professional collaboration. One way to remedy this situation is to get the professions talking to each other as early in their careers as possible.
Communications open To this end, the GP and pharmacy teams within Health Education England Kent, Surrey and Sussex (one of Health Education England’s 13 local education and training boards) are working alongside the Association of Independent Multiples and Local Pharmaceutical Committees to develop a project, whereby community-based pre-registration pharmacists will spend a part of their year in a GP surgery learning about medicines optimisation, to enable them to gain a deep understanding of how GP surgeries operate, and to strengthen relationships between pharmacy and general practice in the longer term. Similarly, the intention is also for GP trainees to spend some time in a community pharmacy.
The project is part of a larger programme, which aims to establish new entities called Community Education Providers Networks (CEPNs). The CEPNs will bring together a range of primary care providers to focus on training the primary care workforce in a well structured and supportive environment. In keeping with this, the pharmacy project is also working to scope the community pharmacy educational infrastructure, and how the project can support pre-registration tutors. There is potential for tutors to be trained, and both tutors and tutor sites to be quality managed as part of the programme, thereby ensuring a high quality and consistent pre-registration programme across participating community pharmacies in Kent, Surrey and Sussex.
Positive progress The ambitions of the project are high, but the main thing that has struck me since taking on the role of managing this task is the willingness of all stakeholders to engage in the process. It has been really pleasing to see a genuine enthusiasm on the part of GPs, CCG leads, LPCs and leaders of independent pharmacy chains to drive the project forward.
If successful, there is no reason why the project cannot be expanded to include other healthcare disciplines in the future, as well as collaborations between primary and secondary care healthcare teams, to build the foundations for a truly joined-up, multi-disciplinary workforce of the future.
The project is still in its infancy, but we have already taken major steps forward. In April we start a collaboration with the DMC group of GP practices and in particular Ravi Sharma, to train pre-reg pharmacists in-house. Such a multi-site, multi-stakeholder collaboration has never occurred before to my knowledge and bodes well for the future. If successful, the plan would be to roll this model out to more practices and pharmacy participants in the coming years. And it will be successful, such is the desire of all parties involved to make it work!
Atif Shamin is currently a Programme Director for the Community Educational Provider Network (CEPN) pre-registration training project, as well as a Specialist Programme Support Pharmacist with Health Education England Kent, Surrey and Sussex (HEE KSS), a regional pre-reg audit and trainee representative lead. He also continues to practise in community pharmacy when times allows.