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Collaboration and partnership: The way forward with community pharmacy

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Professor Mahendra G Patel elucidates how pharmacy professionals working in the multidisciplinary team can help to improve the health of local communities

The hybrid professional and leadership session underscores the Sigma Conference’s significance in offering hope and inspiration to its delegates. This pioneering venture unfolds following meticulous planning, months of deliberation, and the collaboration of experts from various health disciplines across the UK. This session, rich in diversity and expertise, aims to elevate the role of community pharmacy in the ever-evolving landscape of the NHS.

It comprises three key components and delves into multi-professional collaboration, insights from NHS Chief Professional Officers from the four devolved nations complimented by the Royal College of Nursing Directorate Wales, and the evolving landscape of Pharmacy Professional Leadership.

Multi-Professional Collaboration: Breaking Boundaries

The crux of this ground-breaking session lies in appreciating and fostering greater multi-professional collaboration to set the stage for a thought-provoking session on how community pharmacy can be recognised as an important cog in the wheel of an integrated NHS. This convergence creates a dynamic platform for community pharmacy to form wider partnerships and explore opportunities, particularly with the recently launched NHS Pharmacy First Service.

Elevating Pharmacy Technicians: A Keystone in the Workforce

While acknowledging the vital collaboration with wider healthcare colleagues, it is imperative to recognise and harness the advancing role of pharmacy technicians. Galvanising the pharmacy workforce with the support of pharmacy technicians helps further optimise the clinical expertise and knowledge of pharmacists in helping to improve health and health outcomes.

National Priorities and Collaborative Learning

The spotlight on community pharmacy through the NHS Chief Pharmaceutical Officers of the devolved administrations, each with their national priorities, opens avenues for deeper engagement. Learning from diverse practices across the UK stimulates innovative thinking adaptable to local contexts. As the NHS undergoes repositioning and regrouping to address current challenges, collaboration and partnerships become linchpins for community pharmacy’s continued relevance.

The inclusion of the national Chief Dental Officer, for example, paves the way for potentially exciting possibilities in preventative healthcare, especially in reducing levels of tooth decay in children, as well as how we could work more closely with our nursing colleagues in delivering a seamless NHS.

UK Commission on Pharmacy Professional Leadership: Shaping the Future

In June 2022, the four UK Chief Pharmaceutical Officers initiated a transformative journey through an independent Commission to consider the future of pharmacy professional leadership affecting pharmacists and pharmacy technicians. The diverse Board of 19 members, spanning across England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, now spearheads the implementation of recommendations from the UK Commission’s report published in February 2023.

This session introduces the background of this work through the Commission’s Co-Chair and former Chair of the General Pharmaceutical Council, Mr Nigel Clarke. This engagement aims to offer community pharmacy a deeper insight into shaping the profession’s collaborative future, with community and primary care pharmacists and pharmacy technicians actively participating in guiding its trajectory.

Key Components and Takeaways

The session unfolds in three integral components: a multi-professional session, insights from NHS Chief Professional Officers on national priorities, and discussions on Pharmacy Professional Leadership.

Key takeaways include:

  • Pharmacy First is an inaugural step for wider opportunities for community pharmacists and the NHS Community Pharmacy Independent Prescribing Pathfinder Programme.
  • Pharmacy workforce can be strengthened through greater utilisation of pharmacy technicians as part of the NHS Long Term Workforce Plan.
  • There remains a critical need for improving access to care.
  • Enhancing interprofessional education and improving health literacy are seen as urgent requirements.
  • Exploring collaborative avenues with other healthcare professionals, such as general dental practitioners, particularly in preventive dental health could be seen as an opportunity for developing further services through community pharmacy.
  • Collectively address some of the common concerns of the different professions, especially relating to workforce and capacity, to help amplify their impact through a unified voice.
  • Enabling difficult conversations is essential for meaningful progress to occur and instil confidence in relationships.
  • For integration to be effective it necessitates a bi-directional approach.
  • Inclusive practice should also focus on professional inclusion.
  • The UK Pharmacy Professional Leadership Board creates huge opportunity for the pharmacy profession and needs to ensure that community pharmacy as a sector is better engaged to meet the opportunities and challenges of the present and the future.

The session serves as a reservoir of knowledge and essential information, empowering community pharmacy to better support NHS national pharmacy priorities across the four nations. As the healthcare landscape transforms, community pharmacy emerges as a meaningful and effective contributor to improving health outcomes and reducing health inequalities.

The insights garnered will further help pave the way for a truly integrated NHS, where collaboration, inclusivity, and proactive dialogue become the cornerstones of progressive healthcare.

Way Forward

Having developed and led this session, I believe there are opportunities to explore with wider collaboration across different professions, and how community pharmacy may engage further in helping to support some of the national priorities set out for pharmacy.

 

Professor Mahendra G. Patel, PhD, OBE, FRPharmS, is an independent expert member of the UK Pharmacy Professional Leadership Advisory Board. He is also the CEO of the Oxford University Centre for Research Equity (CfRE).

 

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