Why pharmacists need advanced practice specialist residences: the UK–Australia story

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) has signed a partnership agreement with the Society of Hospital Pharmacists of Australia, a national professional membership body in Australia representing over 4,500 pharmacists, pharmacy technicians and pharmacists in training working in Australia’s hospitals and other clinical healthcare settings.

Partnership, handshake

A new partnership between the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) and the Society of Hospital Pharmacists of Australia (SHPA) will involve the development of mutually recognised, specialised residences for pharmacists in both countries. Catherine Duggan, director of professional development and support at the RPS; Michael Dooley, president of the SHPA; Ian Coombes, vice president of the SHPA; Kristin Michaels, chief executive of the SHPA; and Ian Bates, professor of pharmacy education UCL School of Pharmacy, explain the significance of this partnership to the two societies, and the wider pharmacy workforce.

How did this agreement come about?

The RPS and the SHPA share a common vision to lead, develop and support the pharmacy profession.

Since 2010, the RPS has worked with all sectors of the profession to develop standards, frameworks, portfolios and models of accreditation through professional development programmes. In September 2016, the SHPA launched a two-year general residency programme to provide structured, accredited professional development for pharmacists in the early (foundation) career stage.

We need a workforce that can deliver the same standard of care across different settings and sectors

A new agreement between the RPS and the SHPA will see the two organisations collaborating to deliver quality assured education, training and development opportunities mapped to RPS and SHPA career stages from Foundation to Faculty. Mutually accredited, two-year advanced practice specialist residencies for pharmacists across a range of practice areas including critical care, cardiology, oncology and general medicine. In Australia, accreditation of advanced practice residency sites will commence in 2018 with the first intake of pharmacists to these advanced residences beginning in 2019, and the programmes will in future be on offer to UK pharmacists too. The RPS and SHPA will mutually recognise these advanced pharmacists through a reciprocal arrangement.

On 31 March 2017, Michael Dooley, president of the SHPA, visited the RPS in London to sign the 2017 agreement on behalf of the Australian society.

The frameworks that have been developed in the UK and Australia are based on Competency Development and Evaluation Group work, which has been adopted across nations, incorporating additional transnational research by the International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP). The agreement between the RPS and the SHPA builds on a mutual vision to share and develop programmes of support and recognition that count in either nation.

Work by FIP shows that at foundation level there exists a common set of globally applicable practice-related competencies. The UK and Australia have similar practitioner intern or preregistration year structured residencies or foundation training programmes, using similar general or foundation level competency based developmental frameworks. In the past five years, both pharmacy workforces have introduced advanced practice frameworks to guide the development of practitioners towards advanced credentialing[1]

Evidence from joint workforce research in the UK and Australia demonstrates transnational applicability for advanced pharmacy practice development[4]
. The respective advanced level frameworks are similar in developmental terms: advanced stage competencies in both frameworks clarify expectations of practice and identify common skills development needs. There is good evidence for transnational parity of advanced pharmacy practice.

Healthcare systems, health issues and the practice of pharmacists are very similar between the UK and Australia. Working together allows us to share expertise across pharmacy practice, delivering mutually beneficial programmes and services including a new model of accredited specialist residencies designed for the needs of UK and Australian pharmacists.

Why do we need this agreement?

We need a workforce that can deliver the same standard of care across different settings and sectors: e.g. hospitals, community, care homes or general practice. In addition, demonstrating stages of professional advancement and experience helps patients and other professions to understand the impact of our role better.

The need for the ‘advanced generalist’ is growing and we must support the profession to adapt to this need

Pharmacists working in highly specialist practice increasingly have to draw on their advanced generalist knowledge and expertise as patients present with multiple co-morbid diseases, often related to ageing. The care of patients and the use of medicines is getting more complex across all care sectors. A practitioner may work with patients with diabetes, cardiac disease, cancer, HIV – all of the above! It is essential to have formalised experiential training programmes, recognised by the profession, for pharmacists in all these areas.

The need for the ‘advanced generalist’ is growing and we must support the profession to adapt to this need. Programmes supporting advancement across all sectors and specialisms — which, critically, do not always require mandated or extra training — are a useful way to develop the whole workforce with a recognised transferable skillset. The key is to adopt a core development roadmap (foundation training) that provides a consistent experiential programme with clear stages of progression: in particular, supporting newly qualified pharmacists in consolidating their early experiential learning in practice, whether this be residency training or foundation programmes. Both partners in the new agreement acknowledge this imperative, which has led to this agreement.

What will be the outcome, and when?

The outcome of the agreement will be an ability to collaboratively share frameworks, training and development and recognition programmes to increase the competency and capacity of the pharmacy workforce and ultimately improve our profession’s contribution to patient care.

Over the next two years, SHPA and the RPS will work to progress this exciting initiative and create workforce development opportunities across clinical practice.

We hope that this transformational model will develop the future workforce and become widely adopted across many countries in future. An added benefit of bilateral collaboration on developmental programmes is that pharmacists who are credentialed* in Australia (via SHPA) for a given stage of development would have parity of assessment and therefore recognised credentials in the UK (via the RPS) and vice versa. This reciprocity would be hugely beneficial for both workforces in relation to potential mobility and would offer opportunities for both nations to work even more closely over coming years.


[1] Coombes I, Bates I, Duggan C et al. Developing and recognising advanced practitioners in Australia: an opportunity for a maturing profession? J Pharmacy Pract Res 2011. doi: 10.1002/j.2055-2335.2011.tb00057.x

[2] Coombes I, Kirsa SW, MacCallum P et al. Advancing pharmacy practice in Australia: the importance of national and global partnerships. J Pharmacy Pract Res 2012. doi: 10.1002/j.2055-2335.2012.tb00184.x

[3] Galbraith K, Coombes I, Matthews A et al. Advanced pharmacy practice: aligning national action with global targets. J Pharmacy Pract Res 2017. doi: 10.1002/jppr.1333

[4] Udoh, A, Bruno, A, Bates, I et al. Transnational comparability of advanced pharmacy practice developmental frameworks: A country-level crossover mapping study. Int J Pharm Prac 2017 (in press).

*Credentialing is sometimes referred to as professional recognition

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, June, Vol 298, No 7902;298(7902):DOI:10.1211/PJ.2017.20202766

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