National pharmacy boards meeting: 23 September 2021

The English, Scottish and Welsh pharmacy boards met via Zoom to discuss the Society's plans to further develop its role in making pharmacy sustainable, workforce shortages and wellbeing.

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s (RPS’s) three national pharmacy boards held a joint online Zoom meeting on 23 September 2021.

Apologies were received from Sibby Buckle, a member of the English Pharmacy Board (EPB), and Brian Addison and Tamara Cairney, members of the Scottish Pharmacy Board (SPB).

Sustainability update

Elen Jones, director for RPS Wales, detailed several developments since the Society published its declaration of climate and ecological emergency on 1 September 2021.

Notably, the updated ‘Competency framework for all prescribers‘, which now includes references to sustainability, was published on 7 September 2021. Later in September 2021, Scottish newspaper The Herald published a full-page spread on the Society’s climate emergency declaration. Jones also explained how she and Claire Anderson, president of the RPS, have been invited to speak to pharmacy colleagues in Toronto, Canada, “who picked up on our declaration”, she said.

Jones went on to ask the boards for their views on whether the RPS should consider joining the UK Health Alliance on Climate Change (UKHACC), which comprises 21 health organisations, with the aim of leading the UK health profession’s response to climate change.

Audrey Thompson, a member of the SPB, said that membership of the UKHACC would be “potentially quite powerful” and would “gives us an opportunity to amplify the voice of pharmacy”.

Robbie Turner, director of pharmacy and member experience at the RPS, agreed, noting that the “role medicines play in sustainability is huge and not having the RPS involved would be a great loss”.

Also in support, chief executive Paul Bennett said there was a “very strong alignment” between the bodies’ objectives “and we should absolutely do it”; however, as it would involve a financial commitment, Bennett said that membership should be kept under review to “revisit on an annual basis”.

Tase Oputu, a member of the EPB, asked if the Society can “ensure we have a comprehensive project plan” around its climate action, noting that it would be “useful to have it very clear and explicit”. Jones agreed, saying that the sustainability and climate action subgroup had useful conversations around this and that, as the policy develops, the RPS will be able to hone in on key policies.

Pharmacy workforce shortages

The national boards split into country-defined breakout rooms to discuss the Society’s position on pharmacy workforce issues. Introducing the session, Clare Morrison, director for RPS Scotland, said workforce pressures and shortages attracted different viewpoints, and the Society has been “contacted by members who are concerned, and also by members who say there are no shortages”.  

In the EPB breakout room, board member Andre Yeung said it was important to first understand “opposing narratives: can we get to a place where we can say it is or isn’t happening; and why and where is it happening?”.

Board member Duncan Petty said that the pharmacy technician workforce situation was also important to understand, noting that if there is “a dearth of them too, then that affects pharmacy workloads”.

Thorrun Govind, chair of the EPB, said that underlying the question is a lack of data, and that it is “hard to make big decisions” without data in place. Gail Fleming, director for education and professional development at the RPS, agreed and added that Wales and Scotland are better regarding this matter.

Fleming also said it is not just a question of gathering the data, asking: “How do you turn that [data] into intelligence, and where does that data come from?

“[In the past, there was] a very comprehensive annual data set on NHS workforce, which we don’t do any more.”

Martin Astbury, vice chair of the EPB, said that “whatever we agree, we should be stating that [pharmacy] should be a managed number profession”.

Asked what the RPS should do to influence workforce issues, EPB member Alisdair Jones said it should “increase demand for pharmacists by expanding their role”, adding that “community pharmacy often says it wants to make more clinical impact”.

Board member Mary Evans raised the implications of increasing digital capacity and artificial intelligence, saying that a lot of things that pharmacists currently do now will become automated.

“So what opportunities are there for pharmacists to do what they want, rather than feed the beast?” she asked. “Genomics will eventually be point of care and we want that in pharmacy, but we need space for that to happen: digital will give that space.”

The RPS can lobby for breaks so that staff work at their best — that is our role, not telling pharmacies how to run their business

Regarding staff welfare, Yeung noted: “Pharmacies are businesses but the RPS can lobby for breaks so that staff work at their best — that is our role, not telling pharmacies how to run their business.”

Feedback from all three pharmacy boards will be collated and feed into the Society’s policy position.

Workforce wellbeing

Heidi Wright, practice and policy lead at RPS England, gave an update on the Society’s Workforce Wellbeing programme, and asked for views on the direction of the future programme of work and whether or not the current project milestones were the right ones. Wright noted that the third RPS workforce wellbeing survey, which was published on the same day as the joint board meeting, may influence the future policy direction.

Iain Bishop, a member of the SPB, said that the issue “seems to have become less of a priority, perhaps because of vacancy levels”, adding that if there are not enough people, “no-one gets breaks, holidays, or protected learning time: the issues are interlinked and we need to recognise that”.

Fellow SPB member Lola Dabiri suggested more support for women experiencing menopause, while Amandeep Doll, inclusion and diversity coordinator at the RPS, said that her team had “picked up that menopause is something we need to consider” and that it would be factored into business planning in 2022.

Wright added that the RPS is hoping to launch a resource “around creating a supportive workplace environment”, and that it would be holding related events with Pharmacist Support at the end of 2021 and start of 2022.

Inclusion and diversity

Doll explained that the Society’s inclusion and diversity team is looking at how to evaluate the outcomes of the inclusion and diversity strategy, and asked for suggestions.

Oputu said that the NHS Workforce Race Equality Standard, an annual report that provides a national picture of race equalities in the NHS workforce, could be used “as a framework to drive improvement”, and that the question of inclusion and diversity “needs to be on all board meetings and other subgroups; front and centre of what we do”.

Tracey Thornley, a member of the EPB, agreed that inclusion and diversity should be a “standing agenda on board meetings”.

On the matter of how to measure impact, Govind said: “If this is successful, we will see more of the people we are trying to target rise up; that is a measure of success.”

She added that collecting data on organisations within pharmacy would be additional ways to measure outcomes.

In terms of key areas that the strategy should focus on, Andrew Carruthers, chair of the SPB, said that he would like to see “socioeconomic status included, and how it goes through a lot of the other characteristics”.

Carruthers also suggested the inclusion of remote and rural issues, “especially for Scotland”.

Other business

Turner expressed a “fond farewell and good luck” to Gino Martini, chief scientist at the RPS, who would be leaving the Society at the end of September 2021 for a new role leading Birmingham University’s Precision Health Technologies Accelerator. He thanked Martini for all he has done to ensure that science and research is at the centre of what the Society does.

Martini said his time with the RPS has been “an honour and a privilege”.

After a short break, the English and Welsh boards continued in confidential business, while the SPB continued with open business.

Scottish Pharmacy Board open business

Alison Strath, chief pharmaceutical officer for Scotland, gave the SPB an update on her own priorities for the pharmacy profession, as well as those of the Scottish government. She thanked the profession for its work during the COVID-19 pandemic, describing the sector’s response as “quite remarkable”, adding that the Scottish government was “proud of how pharmacy responded”.

Strath also noted that the SPB had shown a lot of support to the profession throughout the pandemic.

Strath’s number one priority was to support short, medium and long-term workforce development issues, adding that the government would “continue to work on strengthening workforce planning”. She said she planned to establish a pharmacy workforce forum “to co-produce a vision for the pharmacy workforce”, and she hoped RPS Scotland’s work towards a vision for 2030 would inform that.

We all have a responsibility to inspire students and early career pharmacists as the future of our profession

A focus on initial education and training is “critical”, Strath said, and that “we all have a responsibility to inspire [students and early career pharmacists] as the future of our profession”.

Christine Gilmour, director of pharmacy at NHS Lanarkshire, has been commissioned to do work around the transformation of hospital pharmacy and that work is nearing completion. On the community side, Strath noted that a commitment in the ‘Achieving excellence in pharmaceutical care’ strategy was around developing and implementing a new contractual framework, and underpinning that is a new funding arrangement.

She added that this is a “big piece of work” that could take several years and it will be necessary to consult “very widely” on the matter.

In terms of the role of pharmacy in public health, Strath noted that the current infrastructure is not as good as it used to be and that she is interested in rebuilding and expanding it. She explained how she is also interested in developing practice and clinical capacity around several areas, including mental health, drug misuse and drug deaths; delivering “better and more responsive services” in care settings, such as care homes and prisons; pharmacy’s role in pharmacogenomics and advanced therapies; and opportunities for the supply of systemic anticancer therapies in community pharmacy.

Strath asked the board to think about how it could support the profession to deliver these ambitions, adding that both she and the wider Scottish government was “open and willing to work closely with [the RPS in Scotland]”.

Scottish leadership Fellows in pharmacogenomics

Finally, Jennifer Laskey and Katherine Davidson, two of NHS Education for Scotland’s pharmacy clinical leadership fellows in pharmacogenomics, gave an overview of their work over the past year. Having looked at pharmacogenomics in pharmacy and its role in Scotland, they have now produced a draft report with recommendations for pharmacy. Their recommendations include: the need to assess the baseline level of pharmacogenomics knowledge in pharmacy professionals in Scotland; to collaborate with Health Education England and Healthcare Education and Improvement Wales on provision of educational resources; the creation of specialist leadership posts for pharmacy in genomic medicine or pharmacogenomics; and to develop resources to raise public awareness of the pharmacogenomics approach in NHS Scotland.

  • The next joint national pharmacy board meeting will be held on 2 February 2022
Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, October 2021, Vol 307, No 7954;307(7954)::DOI:10.1211/PJ.2021.1.108111

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