Scottish Pharmacy Board meeting: 25 September 2019

At the latest Scottish Pharmacy Board meeting, members and guests focused on medical cannabis guidance, RPS Scotland’s plans for 2020 and how to future proof the pharmacy profession. 

RPS Scotland board

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s (RPS’s) Scottish Pharmacy Board (SPB) held its autumn meeting at the Society’s Holyrood office. The meeting marked the last gathering of the board at the Holyrood headquarters — in November 2019, RPS Scotland moved into a new building on Melville Street, in Edinburgh’s West End.

Present at the meeting were Alex MacKinnon, director for RPS Scotland; Gail Fleming, director for education and professional development at the RPS; Christopher John, head of workforce policy and projects at the RPS; Joseph Oakley, the Society’s head of credentialing; Colin Cable, assistant chief scientist at the RPS; Aileen Bryson, policy and practice lead at RPS Scotland; and Mahendra Patel, the Society’s treasurer and a member of the English Pharmacy Board (EPB).

Sue Lacey-Bryant, national lead for NHS Library and Knowledge Services and development advisor for NHS England’s Time for Care programme, was a guest at the meeting. Lacey-Bryant was programme manager for the ‘Topol review: preparing the healthcare workforce to deliver the digital future’, a report commissioned by then health secretary Jeremy Hunt in 2018 and published in February 2019. 

Business plan

MacKinnon said that the Scottish government is currently doing a lot of work looking into policy, public health and primary care, and that the Society is feeding into that. He added that, on 1 October 2019, Jonathan Burton — chair of the SPB — would be giving verbal evidence to the Health and Sport Committee’s inquiry into the future of primary care in Scotland.

Burton explained that the main messages the Society wanted to convey at the evidence session were access to records; workforce and skill mix, and changing modes of care, with “resources tied to what we do for patients, and not just to the supply function”.

MacKinnon asked the board if they were in agreement that the Society should keep advocating for read/write access to the patient record. The board unanimously agreed.

The Society would also be submitting evidence to the Committee’s inquiry into the supply and demand for medicines, MacKinnon said.

Looking ahead, MacKinnon said that a mental health summit would be hosted by the RPS in Scotland on 8 October 2019, at the Holyrood offices. A product of that will be a report to be used for policy and ultimately, a call to the Scottish government for pharmacists to have a greater role in mental health. This follows similar work by the EPB.

In addition, he said a strategy day would be held in November 2019 to consider the Society’s manifesto for the 2021 Scottish elections. MacKinnon said this would also see the board agreeing “two or three big things that we want to do as a board in 2020”. He assured the meeting that the Scottish business plan will be ready by the end of 2019.

Science and research

Cable said that the Society was currently updating its policy on e-cigarettes, obtaining comment from RPS boards and from stakeholders. To date, he said, the feedback was “very polarised, with some strongly held views”.

“Constructive” talks had been held with Public Health England, he added, and said that the final policy is scheduled for publication in early 2020.

The RPS want to support people to stop smoking and understand that e-cigarettes have a role in that, but has concerns about their long-term use, he said.

Encouraging pharmacy-based smoking cessation to be funded could reduce the number of people using e-cigarettes

Bryson said that in England some smoking cessation services were being cut as more people go on to e-cigarettes. She added that encouraging pharmacy-based smoking cessation to be funded could reduce the number of people using e-cigarettes. Board member John McAnaw said that “further work needs to be done around safety, especially as [e-cigarettes] are being promoted as the best alternative to tobacco”.

Moving on to cannabidiol (CBD) oil, Cable said the Society had received a response from the Home Office to a letter sent in June 2019 to then home secretary Sajid Javid, asking for guidance on permitted tetrahydrocannabidiol (THC) levels in CBD oil.

The response confirmed what the Society already knew: that no amount of THC is permissible, he said. Any level of THC in CBD oil would render the CBD oil a controlled substance. The response went on to describe exemptions to this, Cable said, but the letter was “ambiguous” in this respect, in the view of both the Society and some external experts who were asked to review it.

The Society was now trying to arrange a meeting with the Home Office, to be attended by Cable, Martini and Amira Guirguis, scheduled drugs lead on the RPS science and research board. “We hope to come away from that with clearer understanding, which we will communicate to members,” Cable added, but emphasised that CBD oil
guidance currently on the RPS website
 is accurate.

Topol review

Lacey-Bryant gave the board an overview of the ‘Topol review’. Led by Eric Topol, a US-based cardiologist, geneticist, and digital medicine researcher, the review looks to the next 20 years and sets out 46 recommendations to prepare the healthcare workforce for a digitally-based future. The recommendations fall particularly around genomics, digital medicine, artificial intelligence and robotics.

Most people use a lot of technology in their social life but many don’t translate those skills to their work environment

The NHS currently employs 1.4 million staff, an estimated 50% of whom will still be in post in 2032. In 20 years, Lacey-Bryant explained to the board that 90% of NHS jobs will require digital skills.

She added that most people use a lot of technology in their social life but many don’t translate those skills to their work environment: “That’s an implicit challenge in what we’re dealing with.”.

It’s essential to “communicate the excitement and diversity of future practice”, she said, and think about how to encourage people to stay working in the NHS. 

Other challenges for the future include increasing health literacy, as well as digital skills, among the general population. “Digital literacy is not enough; health literacy is crucially important too.”  

Lacey-Bryant added that, to meet the Topol recommendations, a programme of digital education for the current workforce will need to be developed by the NHS, Health Education England and employers, alongside time set aside for staff to learn. To ensure the future workforce is sustainable, work needs to be done with schools, further and higher education institutions and professional regulatory bodies.

McAnaw said that, in his experience, much healthcare technology is used at pilot level and “we struggle most in scaling it up”.

Lacey-Bryant responded: “We have to put incentives in system and frameworks, to allow things to be done at scale”. 

Finally, towards the close of the meeting, MacKinnon said that the RPS in Scotland was planning a launch event at the new building, to be held the day before the next SPB meeting in January 2020.  He also suggested hosting open days, to which Society members would be invited. The board agreed to consider how this could be arranged.

  • The next SPB meeting will be held on 22 January 2020
Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, November 2019, Vol 303, No 7931;303(7931)::DOI:10.1211/PJ.2019.20207156

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