This is a campaign letter for the 2021 RPS national pharmacy board elections. The views expressed in this letter belong to the author. Find out more about the RPS elections.
In primary care in England, there are many new roles that receive full funding from NHS England to be employed by primary care networks to work with GP practices under the ‘Network DES’. Among them, and probably some of the most well established, are GP pharmacists and pharmacy technicians. These are the 26,000 extra primary care staff that politicians talk about.
Five of the new roles — physiotherapists, paramedics, occupational therapists, dietitians and podiatrists — are quite new to primary care. This will mean significant new ways of working for them, which has been recognised by Health Education England through the creation of the concept of first contact practice. It recognises that these allied health professionals might see patients as they come through the door, assess them and create plans for their care without recourse to the GP. It will become an important credential for these professions in primary care and a big step on the way to advanced practice. Good for them; this recognition will go a long way towards embedding their role in primary care.
In reading the roadmaps for physios and paramedics, I am struck by the alignment to the role that I carried out (for 37 years off and on) as a pharmacist in community practice. I worked as an independent professional, assessing undiagnosed presentations, identifying cardinal signs, managing where possible, creating a plan of care in collaboration with patients and referring onwards as appropriate.
As I emerged from a hospital to work in a community pharmacy, it was just us and the GPs, dentists and district nurses in primary care. We are building a service now that will include more than 25 patient-facing roles. While most will be within the orbit of GPs, it would be so nice if this widening team embraced the skills and patient contact role of pharmacists working in community practice. Now is the time to help this happen through a credential that will resonate within the NHS and primary care. This recognition that first contact issues are routinely managed in pharmacies will, I believe, make real joined-up care easier to realise.
I will work, through the English pharmacy board, to promote this credential for pharmacists, assessing with expert colleagues in the RPS what parts of the MPharm would be relevant and what gaps might be needed to meet FCP-level practice, and describe that within the RPS faculty.
Howard Duff, election candidate, English pharmacy board, Royal Pharmaceutical Society