On September 29, RPS Wales gave evidence to the Welsh Assembly’s Health, Social Care and Sport Committee after submitting a written response to their inquiry into winter preparedness 2016/17. Attending on behalf of RPS were Welsh Pharmacy Board Chair, Suzanne Scott-Thomas and Director for Wales, Mair Davies.
Our written submission noted how pharmacists have a key role to play in ensuring that patients have access to their medicines and take them as intended during the winter months. It also emphasised our profession’s role in contributing to the sustainability of the NHS through reducing pressures on unscheduled, urgent and emergency care.
A key theme that came across during the oral evidence session was workforce planning and development. We welcomed the creation of the cluster pharmacist role in Wales and of more pharmacists working within GP surgeries and underlined their positive effect in improving the medicines management of patients and freeing up GP time to enable them see more complex cases. It was noted that these new roles have led to integrated pre-registration training with a pilot taking place in North Wales that sees pre-registration pharmacists spending time in community, secondary and primary care settings to equip them with as broad a range of experience as possible.
The inquiry offered us the opportunity to call for the skills of community pharmacists to be fully utilised in models of care. We reiterated the RPS’s support for the roll out of the Choose Pharmacy common ailment scheme, noting how the evidence from pathfinder sites in Betsi Cadwalder and Cwm Taf University Health Boards pointed to the service reducing the number of GP appointments whilst maintaining the quality of care for patients seeking advice and treatment for common ailments. However, concerns were raised over the delay in rolling out the IT platform that supports the service. We also insisted that the service must be commissioned by all 7 health boards in Wales and that it should be accompanied by an underpinning public campaign aimed at changing patient behaviour and transforming patient pathways. This will empower community pharmacies to become the first port of call for patients with common ailments.
The session also touched on patient access to flu vaccinations. Referring to the BMA’s evidence on the scale and pressures of the annual influenza vaccination campaign, we stressed the importance of pharmacists and GPs working in collaboration to ease pressures and to increase patient access. We noted our concern that not all community pharmacies are commissioned to provide vaccines and insisted that the NHS must use every opportunity to vaccinate people.
Commenting on the inquiry, Mair Davies said: “RPS Wales was pleased to give evidence to the Health, Social Care and Sport Committee and to highlight the important role that pharmacists can play in helping the NHS meet winter pressures. Through collaboration, pharmacists can help to increase patient access to services and ensure the delivery of high quality care during the challenging winter months. We look forward to further work with the committee on these important issues over the next Assembly term to ensure that the pharmacy profession’s contribution can be a driver for change and improvement.”
Watch the evidence session below.