The Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s (RPS’s) English Pharmacy Board (EPB) met at the Society’s London offices on 10 October 2019. Present at the meeting were Paul Bennett, chief executive of the RPS; John Lunny, public affairs manager at the RPS; Ravi Sharma, director for England at the RPS; and Robbie Turner, the Society’s director of pharmacy and member experience, who joined by video link.
Guests at the meeting were Stephen Goundrey-Smith, consultant at SGS PharmaSolutions; Isobel Lowings, publication officer at the British Pharmaceutical Students’ Association; Sunayana Shah, member of the RPS Industrial Pharmacy Forum; Jatinder Harchowal and Roger Fernandes of the RPS Hospital Expert Advisory Group; Sarah Cahill, clinical fellow at the RPS; Fatema Mamdani, member of RPS North West London; Mike Holden, member of RPS Wessex and Sumayya Kasuji, member of RPS West Yorkshire.
Apologies were received from board members Thorrun Govind, Tracey Thornley and Ash Soni.
As the meeting fell on World Mental Health Day, several board members and guests wore green in honour of the charity Pharmacist Support, with a collection for the charity being held at the meeting.
Sharma noted that the RPS had that day launched a Great Britain-wide mental health and wellbeing survey, in partnership with Pharmacist Support. This forms the start of a campaign for wellbeing in the pharmacy workforce and, as part of this campaign, the RPS is calling for all pharmacists to be able to access NHS-funded mental health support.
The purpose of the survey, Sharma said, is to collect an evidence base to inform a report and enable lobbying on the issue. He explained that the Society is aiming for an annual survey to allow for benchmarking.
Workforce pressures are severely affecting pharmacists
Board member Andre Yeung said that while surveying and data collection is important for detecting problems, “the most important strand of work is prevention: it’s about putting us in a different position”, adding that “workforce pressures are severely affecting pharmacists”.
Board member Sibby Buckle said she had, in a personal capacity, spoken to Matt Hancock, secretary of state for health and social care, at the Conservative Party conference in Manchester about prescription charges and the cost of inhalers.
Goundrey-Smith said that the RPS would be developing a position on digital capabilities within pharmacy, allowing the Society to “lobby for systems that work for us”. He then ran a workshop in which he asked board members to consider what this position should incorporate. Following a short breakout session, board members proposed areas including funding for training, lobbying for interoperability, and equity with other healthcare professions. It was noted that pharmacy contractors have to buy their own IT systems, whereas GPs have their IT systems bought for them.
He said that the next steps were for the RPS to look at what resources it can provide to help pharmacists thinking about future challenges in skills development. Digital technology will “affect all areas of practice and become increasingly pervasive”, he said.
Policy and public affairs
Sharma told the board that the NHS will produce a document in April 2020 on pharmacogenomics and its implementation across the NHS. He said that the RPS wants to prepare a position statement on pharmacists and pharmacogenetics, as part of the RPS’s science team strategy for 2020.
We need a base level of literacy on pharmacogenomics
An NHS evaluative review had found 15—43 drug–gene relationships, including some commonly prescribed drugs, such as codeine. Sharma predicted that pharmacogenomics will be commonplace in community pharmacy and general practice in five to ten years, adding that “we need a base level of literacy” on the subject.
Board member Mahendra Patel asked the board to “be mindful that this is huge: early implantation in academic institutes is important”.
Sandra Gidley, president of the RPS, added that given the subject may be “mainstream in five years, how do we educate people who didn’t learn it at undergraduate level?”.
Sharma concluded that the RPS will set a date for delivery of the position statement, alongside a communications plan.
In public affairs news, Lunny said that the Society was maintaining ongoing contact with the Department of Health and Social Care, NHS England and other stakeholders around Brexit, and contingency planning to secure continued patient access to medicines. He said that Gidley had attended a stakeholder roundtable on the subject in August 2019.
Education and professional development
Referring to the ‘Interim NHS people plan’, Gail Fleming, director for education and professional development at the RPS, noted that the priority for pharmacy was the plan for a nationwide foundation programme and that the Society was lobbying on that, “advocating what can be done with foundation pharmacist training”.
Fleming told that board that the RPS would shortly be meeting with Dido Harding, chair of NHS Improvement, and Sir David Behan, chair of Health Education England (HEE).
Asked by Buckle if funding for the foundation plan had been secured, Fleming said: “That’s why we’re lobbying; the money in the interim people plan is not enough. We are lobbying for the importance of foundation training in that.”
Fleming said that a framework for the foundation programme, which will describe what a pharmacist should look like at the end of foundation training, was now ready and would be published at the RPS Conference on 17 November 2019. The framework will be hosted by the RPS, and the Society will also support the foundation curriculum and assessments. HEE, NHS Education for Scotland and Health Education and Improvement Wales will lead the training programme.
Fleming also gave an update on proposals for a pharmacy degree apprenticeship, saying that the trailblazer group of employers were now looking at feedback and that a new statement was expected by the end of October 2019. The RPS’s feedback continues to include concerns regarding funding, she added.
Since the EPB board meeting was held, the employer group has announced that it will work towards a second proposal for pharmacy degree apprenticeships, taking into account the concerns raised when the proposals were first published.
Sharma noted that this was the last board meeting for Gareth Kitson, who would soon be leaving his role as professional development and engagement lead for local practice forums at the RPS. Sharma commended Kitson’s “efforts and determination” in leading England’s RPS local programme and said that next year the Society would “try to build on that success”, with the aim to produce an options paper in early 2020, working with Scotland and Wales to “ensure a more unified approach”.
Belief is really important, and it doesn’t have to be religious. It enables you to overcome barriers, and feel part of a collective
Finally, Buckle suggested that pharmacists, like medics, could take the Declaration of Geneva. She said this could “inspire young pharmacists as they enter the profession”. She asked for the board’s views on the idea, whether graduation or registration would be be the most appropriate time and the role the RPS could take in facilitating it.
The idea received wide support from the board, with Patel noting that pharmacy students at Huddersfield University read an oath as they enter the course. Yeung agreed, saying that “belief is really important, and it does not have to be religious. It enables you to overcome barriers, and feel part of a collective”.
Bennett said that “values and beliefs are really important”, and that he felt that graduation would be the optimal time. Bennett asked Buckle to explore the idea’s potential further with Duncan Craig, head of the Pharmacy Schools’ Council.
- The next EPB meeting will be held on 30 January 2020