The Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s (RPS) English Pharmacy Board (EPB) held its spring meeting at the Society’s London headquarters on 12 April 2018. Guests at the meeting were Paul Bennett, chief executive of the RPS; Ash Soni, president of the RPS; Catherine Duggan, RPS director of professional development and support; Ian Bates, professor of pharmacy education at University College London’s School of Pharmacy, and education adviser to the EPB; Sue Kilby, chair of the RPS Industrial Pharmacists’ Forum; Christopher Cutts, regional head of pharmacy at Health Education England (HEE) North and HEE pharmacy dean; Natalia Nisiobedzki, London North West and Gul Root, lead public health pharmacist for the health and wellbeing directorate at Public Health England and principal pharmaceutical officer at the Department of Health.
Public Health England update
Root updated the board on Public Health England’s (PHE) work. The body is, she said, updating the level two framework for healthy living pharmacies (HLPs), and is keen to survey HLPs at a local authority level to show how they map to general practices.
There is, Root added, a lot of interest in pharmacy engagement with cardiovascular disease (CVD); with CVD an NHS priority, cardio services in pharmacies could make a real difference.
Root added that access to pharmacies was greatest in the most deprived areas, and asked how the profession could work best with those communities. Sibby Buckle said that with public health budgets being cut, with commissioning services for pharmacy often being the first to go, “We need to make the pharmacy offering clearer to patients — not every pharmacy offers the same services.” Ash Soni said that pharmacy needs greater influence with local authorities, and asked: “Can we work with you to push that agenda harder?”
Health education and workforce planning
Christopher John, RPS workforce development lead, outlined the Society’s response to the recent NHS consultation on ‘Facing the facts, shaping the future: a draft health and care workforce strategy for England to 2027’. Among the Society’s recommendations were the funding and implementation of a UK-wide pharmacy foundation programme that every newly registered pharmacist would be required to undertake. The programme was recommended by an RPS Task and Finish Group on Career Frameworks and Continuing Professional Development, led by Peter Kopelman, chair of the Society’s Faculty and Education board (FEB). The Society committed to stewarding this programme and developing a curriculum, professional framework and syllabus. The proposed foundation programme should, the RPS argued, incorporate experience across several areas of practice, as well as independent prescribing and advanced skills including clinical assessment, clinical procedures, and diagnosis.
Bates expanded upon the work of the Task and Finish Group, and said support had been received from the chief pharmaceutical officers of each nation. To develop the programme, a subcommittee of the Task and Finish Group chaired by Bates, will be established and will report to the FEB. The Society would, Bates said, need to show that significant progress has been made by September 2018.
John added that he and Kopelman had attended the General Pharmaceutical Council’s education advisory group on Friday 6 April. The group is, John said, looking at initial education and training standards for pharmacists and consulting on revised standards this year. A key question, John said, is whether the sector wants to produce professional pharmacists who are ready to work with patients, or a more broadly trained cohort with scientific and analytical knowledge ready for a wide range of careers?
John also said that his team was undertaking a qualitative analysis of responses to the Society’s recent consulation on the role of the pharmacist. Responses had been received from 61 individuals and 26 organisations, with 78% broadly agreeing with the statement, but only 38% believing that the statement adequately explained to the public the pharmacist’s role.
Cutts updated the board on the work of the regional pharmacy deans. The biggest matter for him, he said, was sustainability, and asked: “Are we creating the workforce in a sustainable way with the numbers that we need?”
In terms of changes for preregistration trainees, Cutts pointed to increased multisector preregistration places and a review of local training programmes. For technicians, there are new standards for the initial education and training and an emerging apprenticeship pathway. For foundation pharmacists, HEE is working closely with the RPS to look at vocational foundation training. This could include work-based experiences; provision of learning and assessment, and an e-portfolio.
Cutts also said that a new North School of Pharmacy and Medicines Optimisation has been created. This will cover the North East, North West, Yorkshire and the Humber. The school’s strategy would, he said, be discussed at a launch event held in Leeds on 17 April 2018.
Gino Martini and Claire Thompson, RPS chief scientist and deputy chief scientist, respectively, told the board that their team’s plans for 2018 include focus on new psychoactive substances and e-cigarettes. Long-term plans, Martini said, are to “ensure the RPS stays at the forefront of science” while keeping patients at the centre of what the Society does, and ongoing engagement with “the pharmacists and scientists of the future.” Responding to the latter point, EPB member Tracey Thornley asked if there was scope for linking with museums with working pharmacies, to which Catherine Duggan, RPS director of professional development and support, added that the Society’s museum is the world’s oldest accredited museum of pharmacy.
Team England work and campaigns
In updates on Team England’s work and campaigns, Gareth Kitson, professional development and engagement lead, said that plans for 2018 include a mental health toolkit and further events around revalidation. Kitson added that an RPS Ambassador’s programme had been developed, in conjunction with Neal Patel, head of corporate communications, and Brian Walters, director of business development. This will see local ambassadors recruited in places with a high density of pharmacists, or where network groups contain large numbers of pharmacists who do not routinely engage with RPS Local. Kitson emphasised that ambassadors will support, not replace, local groups.
John Lunny, public affairs manager, said that the Society had met with pharmacy minister, Steve Brine, who had offered continued support on access to clinical records and pharmacist involvement in sustainability and transformation partnerships (STPs). Bennett had attended a meeting with the Community Pharmacy Patient Safety Group, NHS England, health ministers and the Royal College of General Practitioners on patient safety.
Robbie Turner, RPS director for England, said that on 24 May 2018, four new regional liaison pharmacists would join the Society. Their remit will be to increase the focus of STPs, medicines, and the profession’s role in supporting patients and the NHS.
It was noted that the RPS response to the recent NHS consultation on conditions for which over-the-counter (OTC) items should not routinely be prescribed in primary care made it clear that the Society was “strongly opposed to making OTC products, related to these conditions, unavailable via the NHS as we believe that this goes against the NHS constitution which states that patients should have access to treatment based on clinical need and not the ability to pay.”
Falsified Medicines Directive
Sibby Buckle, who chairs the RPS-hosted Pharmacy Digital Forum, told the board that Falsified Medicines Directive (FMD) was now a standing item on the digital forum’s agenda. Sid Dajani, EPB member, said that the Society should prepare FMD material (including standard operating procedures) for pharmacists. Kilby added her concerns, telling the board that there was “still a lack of understanding across all sectors of the profession of what FMD is and the implications and ramifications — especially around the development of digital software systems”.
Mental health campaign ratified
The board ratified the RPS’s draft mental health campaign policy document. The campaign, introduced at the previous board meeting, will be launched at a parliamentary event in June 2018.
Turner told the board that a round-table event, with extensive representation from both patients and external bodies, had been put together. Further details of the campaign activities would follow after the event. Kitson said that a toolkit for LPFs would be created.
Sandra Gidley, EPB chair, announced that this was the final meeting with Duggan in attendance. Duggan will soon take up a new role as chief executive officer of the International Pharmaceutical Federation. Thanking Duggan for her help and support over the years, Gidley described her as a “friend of the board” and said that she would be greatly missed.
The date of the next EPB meeting was set for 21 June 2018.