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  • Event report: Scottish National Seminar 2017

    Health literacy, revalidation and the Scottish government’s strategy for pharmacy, Achieving Excellence in Pharmaceutical Care, were high up the agenda at the 2017 Scottish National Seminar.

    The event, held in Stirling on 30 September and 1 October, brought together 150 delegates to hear and share ideas under the overarching theme of “Pharmacy for the Future: Building on Strong Foundations”.

    Improving health literacy

    Angela Shepherd, NHS Education for Scotland (NES) nursing and midwifery practice educator with NHS Tayside, said that instructions given to patients by healthcare providers were often “not as simple” as we thought. People with “health literacy” may struggle to understand verbal and written health information and have increased difficulty accessing healthcare services.

    “Poor health literacy is equated with health inequality, without a doubt,” Shepherd said.

    Potential flags for low health literacy, she added, included incomplete forms; non-compliance with medication regimes and frequently missed appointments.

    On Day Two, Graham Kramer, a Montrose-based GP and part of the team behind ‘Making it easy: a health literacy action plan for Scotland’, shared his own experiences of improving health literacy.

    “Half of what a person hears in a medical consultation is forgotten, and half of what they do remember is misunderstood,” Kramer said. “We want Scotland to be a health literate society. Healthcare places barriers in front of people — is it, perhaps, our job to remove these barriers and make it easy for people?”

    Both Shepherd and Kramer referred pharmacists to The Health Literacy Place, an online resource from NHS Education for Scotland that signposts to heath literacy resources.

    Scottish strategy

    Scottish chief pharmaceutical officer, Rose Marie Parr, provided delegates with an overview of ‘Achieving excellence in pharmaceutical care’, the Scottish government’s strategy for improving the delivery of pharmacy services in Scotland.

    Parr acknowledged that times were challenging. Hospital pharmacists, she said, often struggled to find time to complete medicines reconciliation and discharge planning; patients in deprived remote and rural areas often had no access to pharmaceutical care, and there were “issues around variation and waste in care homes”. However, the Scottish workforce was, she said, “skilled, committed and competent”, and building on the sector’s “enthusiasm” could improve the nation’s pharmaceutical care — particularly around care homes, where pharmacists can “bring sense” to prescribing.

    Ready for the future

    Beth Ward, head of professional development with the Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s (RPS) Professional Development and Support team, briefed delegates on the GPhC’s proposed changes to the revalidation process, and on the support the Society will offer pharmacists as they navigate the changes. “Our key message is: don’t worry”, Ward said, assuring members that “the RPS has been working on this for some time to make sure that everything is in place. We will have a full package of support available for everybody”.

    Tom Byrne and Mara Gilchrist, representing the British Pharmaceutical Students Association (BPSA) presented a summary of the BPSA’s report, ‘Aspirations and expectations of pharmacy students’. The report, based on a survey of 1374 students, sets out the aspirations and expectations of current pharmacy students as they look to their future careers. The vast majority (92.5%) of respondents hoped to be able to prescribe medicines — a response that, Byrne said, tied in well with the Scottish government’s commitment that by 2023, all pharmacists should be independent prescribers.

    Putting heads together

    Running throughout the event were a series of workshops with delegates forming smaller groups to share ideas and best practice experiences around specific issues in pharmacy. Themes for discussion included acute and chronic pain management, improving mental health and well-being, and how to deliver better pharmaceutical care in care homes.

    Leading the group discussion on chronic and acute pain, Elaine Thompson, team leader for the Dundee Locality Pharmacy Service and a member of the Scottish Pharmacy Board, said that chronic pain was not yet recognised as a long-term condition, and so “we don’t have robust services across the country”.

    Leading the discussion on improving mental health, Gordon Johnston, chair of Bipolar Scotland Johnston, said that in his experience, whilst many GPs were happy to change their patients’ medication where physical conditions were concerned — for example, to a drug with fewer side effects — they might be less confident adjusting medication for mental health conditions. “So ask someone on repeat prescriptions how long they’ve been on them, and if the side effects have been explained.”

    Summing up at the end of the two days, John McAnaw, chair of the Scottish Pharmacy Board, said that the next steps for RPS Scotland were to “reflect on the contributions gathered from workshops, and from talking to delegates”, to help inform how the Society took forward its business plan for 2018.

    The conference outputs would also, he added, “help us focus on how we can best support you in practice, and push for the changes that we know are required”.

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