As newly appointed chair of the Pharmacy Professional Group of the International Society of Travel Medicine (ISTM), I represent more than 500 pharmacists who provide specialist travel health and travel medicine services globally. Also, as a member of the leadership council, I also represent the voice of pharmacy and am instrumental in the development of working with other professions. The position was established to characterise the role the pharmacist plays in travel medicine globally by providing opportunities for networking and information exchange, and collaboration in research and education.
With more UK pharmacists entering into the provision of travel health services, there is a need to provide support for standards of education. This includes a minimum level of knowledge and competency — particularly in the provision of disease knowledge, risk assessment and risk management. The UK has the opportunity to define these and become the first country to have a minimum set of externally assessed standards that are aligned with, and supported by, other healthcare professions.
The role of the pharmacist in the UK is becoming more clinical and more pharmacists are becoming involved in travel health services. With the introduction of increased clinical provision comes the opportunity to undertake practice-based research. In community pharmacy, this can come from simple surveys and audits that have been undertaken and submitted for publication online. The results would provide evidence of continuing education and support the new professional standards and revalidation.
In October 2017, NHS England asked Public Health England to consider removing travel vaccines from the NHS and, in April 2017, GP practice staff were informed by NHS Resolution that they are not insured to supply private travel vaccines under the clinical negligence scheme. With the Association of British Travel Agents reporting continued growth in travel, there is now a greater opportunity for pharmacists to support local medical services, and have the ability to undertake this role.
Undergraduate training must reflect the increasing demand for pharmacy travel health services. Courses should be revised to include travel health, included either as an extension of infectious diseases, or as an elective subject, as in US pharmacy schools.
For further information regarding travel health services in the UK or ISTM, please contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Derek Evans, independent prescriber; travel medicine specialist and consultant; adjunct clinical professor in pharmacy practice, Keck Graduate Institute School of Pharmacy