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“Competency frameworks are going to become more common across the profession” says Paul Forsyth

Paul Forsyth

A new competence framework for clinical pharmacists treating patients with heart failure has been developed. One of the study authors, Paul Forsyth, took some time out to speak to Pharmacy in Practice about the framework and all things pharmacy.


Why did you become a pharmacist? 


To help people.


What does your current role involve? 


Lead Pharmacist -Clinical Cardiology (Primary Care).


When did you qualify as an independent prescriber? 


2007 and I’ve used this on a daily basis since.


What clinics have you set up over the years and what do they involve? 


Most recently, Post-MI LVSD clinics across primary and secondary care. These involve 20+ pharmacists using advanced clinical skills (e.g. chest auscultation, venepuncture etc) and independent prescribing to run autonomous clinics across various locations in Scotland.


Do you think the concept of ‘pharmaceutical care’ first coined by Helper and Strand in 1990 is still relevant today or does it need a refresh? 


It was ground-breaking in its day but now needs majorly refreshed++


What is a competency framework? A set of minimum areas where a clinician should be competent to work in a given area or field.


Why do pharmacists need competency frameworks? Advanced practice and specialism are poorly understood within pharmacy. The career pathway and new job roles are also rapidly evolving in the profession. Pharmacists often fall into jobs and specialisms through chance rather than design. This framework is designed to bring clarity to the additional skill set that pharmacists need to work within heart failure. Many of these skills (e.g. clinical examination, ECG or echocardiogram result interpretation, understanding about complex cardiac devices etc) are not universally needed by all pharmacists but are needed if you plan to work in heart failure. We have however characterised the areas where all pharmacists and any pharmacists with a clinical remit can help heart failure patients, so the framework is not purely about specialism. It is about understanding that as pharmacists we can all help heart failure patients but the level at which you get involved and the skill set needed is different depending on your job roles.


How was it decided which UKCPA members were in the development group? 


All members of the UKCPA Heart Failure interest group were invited to partake.


Why were no community pharmacists involved in the development of the framework? 


There were no community pharmacists within the UKCPA HF group, although if there are any out there who want to join please get in touch!


The vast majority of the development group were UKCPA members so why did you need to include the RPS in the development process? 


The framework by design is intended to mirror the RPS Faculty framework so that people can in the future apply for professional recognition of their competence. We need to work together as a profession for common goals and the common good. We are stronger together!


Was the development of this process by all involved a completely voluntary process? 




If so is this sustainable for future work? 


Yes. You just need interested people. These type of projects should be an integral part of senior level and consultant pharmacists jobs.


Is the framework accredited by the RPS and/or the UKCPA? 


We are in the process formalising this.


If I completed the framework would I get recognition in a similar way to the RPS faculty? 


Once formally mapped to the RPS Faculty then that is the plan.


If so is this free or is there a charge?  


Once formally mapped to the Faculty then as per the usual RPS Faculty fees.


What is the benefit of defining minimum standards of pharmacy practice in this area? 


Minimum standards provide the framework necessary, in part, to deliver equitable, consistent, effective and safe pharmaceutical care. As a line manager and potential employer of staff, the accreditation of competence by a national professional body also lets me know what skill set and experience a potential staff member has before I employ them.


How do you see this framework being implemented in practice? 


I would hope that new staff members employed in heart failure positions use the framework to guide their immediate and longer-term learning needs. I also hope line managers use it to agree on PDP goals for staff. As a profession, it helps us all if there is standardisation of this type of approach across the profession and across the UK. I hope pharmacists in other countries use it also.


Could community pharmacists use this framework and how would you suggest they engage with it? 


This framework is useful for all pharmacists who routinely see heart failure patients regardless of their role. Given that the prevalence of heart failure is 1-2% of adults then this could apply to many pharmacists.


This framework is based on heart failure. Are there any plans by the UKCPA to develop frameworks in other clinical areas in a similar spirit? 


This is already happening (see UKCPA diabetes example here). Competency frameworks are going to become more common across the profession.

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