The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) Director (RPS Scotland) Clare Morrison participated in the panel discussion alongside representatives from other health professional organizations on tackling the workforce crisis at the SNP conference in Aberdeen on 8 October.
At the conference, the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Care committed to achieving protected learning time for health professionals. Morrison welcomed the Cabinet Secretary’s statement as fantastic news for pharmacists across Scotland.
“ RPS Scotland will follow up the discussion by writing to the Cabinet Secretary to request a meeting to discuss achieving protected learning time, the forthcoming results of our workforce wellbeing survey, and positive examples of how pharmacy teams have improved the well-being of their teams,” said the society.
Clare described the positive recent expansions of pharmacists’ roles, such as the development of NHS Scotland’s Pharmacy First and Pharmacy First Plus services which have transformed independent prescribing in community pharmacy, and the Pharmacotherapy Service which embedded pharmacy teams in general practice.
However, she cautioned that these services had been introduced without proper pharmacy workforce planning. She went on that although it was great to see such pharmacy services described in the current Scottish Government winter resilience plan, the plan lacked commitments on recruitment and retention of pharmacists.
“We know there are shortages of pharmacists across every sector of pharmacy – hospital community and general practice. We need Scottish Government to undertake workforce planning for pharmacy in the way it does for doctors and nurses,” she said at the event.
Clare stressed the need to increase the pharmacy workforce but said short term actions are needed right now to retain the existing workforce. She highlighted ways to improve well-being such as mandating rest breaks (which are essential for both the welfare of pharmacists and for patient safety), enabling flexible working and portfolio careers, and protected learning time.
“I was absolutely delighted that the Cabinet Secretary said he is committed to achieving protected learning time and recognizes its importance,” Clare said.
Also discussed were ways to make existing work processes more efficient. Clare suggested better sharing of patient data, speeding up the introduction of electronic prescribing and dispensing, automation and robotics, and better use of skill mix.