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UK pharmacy delegates discuss workforce shortages and other hot topics at World Pharmacy Council

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Professional leadership bodies from around the world discussed workforce shortages in community pharmacy and other challenges affecting the sector at a global meeting held in Paris last month.

Delegated from Denmark, Australia, Ireland, New Zealand, Portugal, Spain, US and the UK updated the conference on how the profession was progressing in practice, technology and workforce development in their respective countries.

The UK was represented at World Pharmacy Council meeting by National Pharmacy Association chair Andrew Lane and chief executive at the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee Janet Morrison.

Lane said: “It’s very useful to be part of a global network of pharmacy bodies who are all going through similar challenges as we are in the UK. Sharing intelligence on other pharmacy systems around the world helps us to prepare the right strategy for engaging with the NHS at home.

“Hearing some of the strides in services and digital technology in the profession gives us hope for the future of the sector. It’s clear however that key challenges such as workforce shortages are starting to have an effect in other parts of the world too.”

Morrison added: “It was incredibly useful to hear about the experiences of the pharmacy sector in different countries – both what we have in common and where we differ. It was notable that in all the countries around the table the respective governments realised – sometimes belatedly – how much pharmacies could deliver during the pandemic in terms of supporting patients to get access to medicines, giving advice, and delivering vaccinations against Covid and Flu.

“In many countries, it was recognised that the delivery of jabs by pharmacies had actually been more effective and more popular with patients. What our shared experience demonstrated was how much more pharmacy teams could be doing to alleviate the pressures on primary care and help with the health service recovery given our expertise, proximity to patients, and the public trust we enjoy.”

The conference also held discussions around developments and innovations in the profession.

Reflecting on the challenge for the WPC, president Douglas Hoey, who is also the CEO of the National Community Pharmacy Association, USA, said: “We recognised early in the pandemic that community pharmacy would have a vital contribution to make to deliver care to our patients as physicians and hospitals closed clinics.

“Our challenge now is to ensure that we build on the public appreciation and the success of the new services provided during the pandemic to secure the new and expanded services for the future, with the funding needed to deliver viable income streams.”

The World Pharmacy Council is a member of the Associate Expert Group of Business at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and continued its active engagement with the organisation through the conference.

It’s health division head, Francesca Colombo, spoke to the delegates about the organisation’s programme on financial sustainability and resilience of health systems in the 38 member countries of the group.

The Council is planning to carry out further work on quantifying the cost of non-adherence to medication regimes and the economic benefit of community pharmacy medication adherence support; examining the causes of current pharmacy workforce shortages; and the development of digital health services by community pharmacy to improve patient care.

The conference also heard about the World Pharmacy Council’s first international scholarship for pharmacy graduates. The NPA and PSNC are working alongside the Pharmacy Guild of Australia to run an exchange for recently qualified pharmacists, to promote learning from experience community pharmacy practice in another country.

A scholarship has been awarded to Oliver Williams, a pharmacist at Hendra’s At Penryn pharmacy in Cornwall. He will be travelling to Australia later in the year to experience community pharmacy practice in the country and to share his experience of practice in the UK.

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