Liz Fidler unpicks a new joined-up approach to healthcare and what it means for pharmacy
England is starting to ‘unlock’. As this progresses, and conversations lend themselves to thinking about the future, it’s important that community pharmacy finds the space to consider what its role will be in the new healthcare infrastructure – Integrated Care Systems (ICS).
I am sure many readers will be experienced in NHS reorganisations, but I also recognise that for some it feels very distant and not something on your priority list. So why am I mentioning it?
Community pharmacy has been integral during the last year in supporting patients and communities with better health outcomes. As one of the only accessible, walk-in healthcare providers, pharmacy’s roles of medicines supply and advice, as well as the clinical expertise of pharmacy professionals, has never been valued or recognised more.
Now is the time to consider building on this value and recognition of community pharmacy and supporting the future with a clear place in clinical services as an NHS service provider. It’s therefore important to think about, and more critically consider, what your role may be.
One of the ways this can be done is through the ICS as it focuses on providing a more joined-up approach to healthcare. This is a good thing for patients. In addition, pharmacy, for many years, has been developing services to support this concept. The recent Discharge Medicines Services, which supports patients with medicines advice and supply after a hospital stay, is a prime example. How many times do your patients appear in your pharmacy asking whether to stop or start a medicine or asking questions about medicine issues after a stay in their local hospital? A service that is commissioned between acute hospital and community pharmacy will provide a much better service for patients. This has come about by taking local learning of pilot schemes and applying them to a national model as part of the contractual framework.
Building on local innovation has been something we have all done during the pandemic, finding solutions to system problems. By having pharmacy leadership, we can provide a lot of solutions. Do you know who your NHS England regional chief pharmacist is? Do you share your learning? I am sure you do this every day, so take that next step and share your solutions, champion the role that we as pharmacy technicians can deliver and influence change.
Are you using your full knowledge and skill set? Do you feel like your role as a registered professional is utilised for the benefit of patient care? Now is the time to keep raising this and demonstrating what you offer for the benefit of patients at both a local employer level and through systems such as LPCs or other networks.
Pharmacy needs a clear narrative of what it can do for patients and that narrative needs to be consistent and reflective of what the whole of pharmacy can deliver together. We have the solutions, and we need to ensure that the systems around us recognise and empower us to deliver services for the benefit of the patients and communities we serve.