Health Education England (HEE) will train 50 community-based specialist mental health pharmacists as part of a new plan to help support the NHS workforce.

The NHS People Plan published on Thursday (Jul 30) also pledged to create a sustainable supply of prescribing pharmacists with enhanced clinical and consultation skills.

The plan focuses on addressing new challenges for the workforce presented by the coronavirus pandemic and makes commitments to providing greater support for the health and wellbeing of NHS staff.

Pharmacy bodies welcom NHS People Plan

The Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) said it supports the “intent” of looking after the wellbeing of everyone working in the healthcare sector and it is “pleased to see the dedication and achievements of some community pharmacists highlighted in the People Plan document”.

Simon Dukes, PSNC chief executive, said: “PSNC welcomes an NHS People Plan that has the impact of Covid-19 woven through it. What the healthcare system has experienced and how it has adapted through this unprecedented situation rightly has a place at the heart of plans to develop those who work in or for the NHS.

“As a contracted sector, community pharmacy teams are not NHS employees, so it is not for PSNC to sign up to the People Promise on behalf of the sector and indeed some parts of it may not apply or are already covered by employment law and best practice. That said, we believe contractors will be able to support some of the key themes within the promise.”

The PSNC liked the idea around developing clinical pharmacists who can provide even more patient-centred care. The plan aims to create a sustainable supply of prescribing pharmacists with enhanced clinical and consultation skills.

The key elements of the reform will be replacing the current pre-registration year with a foundation year, and enhancing clinical experience in initial education and training.

Working with stakeholders, and under the leadership of the General Pharmaceutical Council, the aim is to start this new approach from Summer 2021, building on HEE’s Interim Foundation Programme that will commence in September 2020.

Commenting on the publication of the plan, Claire Anderson, chair of the English Pharmacy Board, said: “Covid-19 has highlighted the real need for pharmacy to be integrated as part of the NHS family, so it’s vital that all pharmacists and staff delivering NHS services can access the right support wherever they might work.”

“We’ll continue working with HEE on proposed changes to pre-registration and foundation training and it’s vital this is taken forwards in discussion with stakeholders. If we are to realise the ambition to create a sustainable supply of prescribing pharmacists, this must supported by appropriate funding.”

The National Pharmacy Association (NPA) noted that community pharmacists are medicine specialists who have a broad training in prevention and treatment of diseases.

NPA vice chair Nick Kay said: “If our potential can be realised – especially as prescribers –community pharmacists can dramatically improve access to healthcare, and relieve pressure on other parts of the NHS.”

Earlier on Thursday, Health Secretary Matt Hancock welcomed the NHS People Plan,  annoucing that it would strip away “bureaucracy barnacles” so staff spend less time on paperwork and more time with their patients. He urged NHS staff to highlight areas where bureaucracy and red tape could be minimised.

Hancock praises pharmacy

Making a speech at the Royal College of Physicians, he praised community pharmacy for providing “open-access support and care that is deeply embedded in the communities they serve”. He added: “Pharmacies showed just how much more they can do.”

Hancock saId each NHS member of staff has “contributed to an unprecedented national effort to beat back this virus and save lives.

“They have protected us and in return this government will do everything in its power to protect and support them.

“The pandemic has created huge challenges, but it has also highlighted the courage and innovation we are capable of in the most difficult of times.

“We have recognised the need for consistently high quality health and wellbeing support for our staff, so they can better care for themselves and their patients. These changes must remain part of the blueprint of our NHS as we move forward together.

Focus on BAME groups

NHS People Plan also stated the urgent need “for our leaders to take action and create an organisational culture where everyone feels they belong – in particular to improve the experience of our people from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds”

In recognition of BAME staff facing a greater risk of succumbing to Covid-19, all NHS organisations have been asked to complete risk assessments for vulnerable members of staff. NHS trusts, foundation trusts and clinical commissioning groups have all been asked to ensure that BAME people are represented at all levels.

NHS chief people officer Prerana Issar said the plan includes “practical actions based on what our people tell us matters to them, including a more equal, inclusive and flexible organisation” to benefit “our hardworking staff”.

“The pandemic has created huge challenges, but it has also highlighted the courage and innovation we are capable of in the most difficult of times. We have recognised the need for consistently high quality health and wellbeing support for our staff, so they can better care for themselves and their patients. These changes must remain part of the blueprint of our NHS as we move forward together,” she added.

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