The role of the pharmacist in any setting can be extensive and diverse, and as healthcare increases in complexity, there is a rapidly growing range of roles and specialisms emerging within the profession. At Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Trust, we have been exploring the research and leadership opportunities for pharmacists in interstitial lung disease (ILD). ILD is an umbrella term describing a diverse group of lung diseases that result in impairment or fibrosis of the alveolar interstitium. The investigations and diagnosis of this condition can be complex and require multidisciplinary review in an ILD specialist centre. Owing to the high risk and/or high-cost medicines often prescribed to these patients and the complexity of the condition, patients with ILD may have access to a specialist pharmacist at their ILD specialist centre.
The specialist ILD role allows pharmacists to build on their competencies and skills, including clinical, research and leadership. Additional qualifications, such as independent prescribing and advanced clinical practice, allow the specialist pharmacist to work effectively as part of the multidisciplinary team to deliver patient care. Responsibilities can also include quality improvement, service development, co-designing patient pathways and the use of technology to align with the ‘NHS Long Term Plan’ for respiratory patients. The ILD Pharmacist Network, which I have been fortunate to chair, is a growing collection of pharmacists with a role or interest in ILD. This group provides peer support and advice in addition to meeting bi-annually for education, sharing of resources and experiences and to plan collaborative projects. To improve patient accessibility to specialist care, I am working across the London and Southeast network developing streamlined patient pathways, guidelines for the management of ILD patients and providing education and training. I am also soon to become co-chair of the ILD-interdisciplinary network. This is an exciting opportunity for a pharmacist to demonstrate how we can truly work across disciplines to optimise patient care.
Integrating research into our specialist ILD pharmacy roles is highly encouraged. I am the Guy’s and St Thomas’s project lead for the NHS Digital funded implementation of a remote monitoring programme in the management of patients with ILD. This involves managing patients on a virtual platform and reviewing measurements, such as home spirometry, oximetry and patient reported measures. I am passionate about the use of digital technology to improve patient outcomes, access to specialist care and clinician experience. Huge improvements can potentially be achieved with supported self-management, improving education and empowering patients to manage their condition effectively. It is important to work in collaboration with the multidisciplinary ILD clinicians in the ILD specialist centres and I regularly contribute to research and publications.
My role as a specialist ILD pharmacist has evolved over time and I have had great opportunities for professional growth and having a positive impact on patient care and the ILD specialist centre. My experiences demonstrate that pharmacists are well equipped to deliver high quality clinical care, as well as research and leadership, nationally and internationally. If you are interested in learning more about the ILD Pharmacist NHS Network, please join here: https://www.networks.nhs.uk/nhs-networks/national-ild-pharmacist-network and follow @ILDpharmacy on Twitter.
Marium Naqvi is a specialist independent pharmacist prescriber, research practitioner and the Deputy Clinical Lead for King’s Health Partners ILD service