By Ross Gregory, Head of External Affairs in Wales.
We’ve been getting out and about this autumn to meet with Members of the Senedd and to talk about all things pharmacy.
Representing your interests and advocating for the profession is at the heart of our work. While we engage with many key stakeholders and partners, our relationships with Welsh politicians offer some of the greatest opportunities to influence change for the pharmacy profession at the most strategic levels in Wales.
Influencing the political infrastructure in Wales was recently discussed by the Welsh Pharmacy Board and we have started to prioritise activity for the next year. This includes a commitment to work with Members of the Senedd, to profile the incredible work of pharmacy across Wales, and to propose solutions that increase the value of pharmacy in patient care right across Wales.
We’ve made a good start to this. Following the summer recess of the Senedd, we’ve met with the Health Minister, party spokespeople for health, the Chair of the Health and Social Care Committee and members of that Committee. We have highlighted challenges, proposed solutions and showcased innovations in pharmacy and taken all opportunities to inform the politicians about the rapidly changing role of pharmacists and their teams.
Showcasing digital innovations in pharmacy
We had the privilege of accompanying Mike Hedges MS to Morriston Hospital to meet with the renal pharmacy team early in October. We heard first hand from Professor Chris Brown, Consultant Renal Pharmacist and National lead for the Welsh Renal Clinical Network, about the digital transformation of the renal pharmacy service.
The development of a single IT platform for medicines management, plus multi-professional working and putting patients at the centre of their care through access to their e-record are just some of the advances being taken forward in Swansea and rolled out across Wales.
The challenges of rural pharmacy delivery
We’ve accompanied the Chair of the Health and Social Care Committee, Russell George MS, to Victoria Memorial Hospital in Welshpool in the heart of the rural Health Board area of Powys. At that site visit, the Chief Pharmacist, Jacqui Seaton and team members outlined the challenges of delivering high quality pharmaceutical care across the health board area and the innovations to overcome barriers to patient care. Mr George heard about the challenges of recruitment to pharmacist posts, retention of staff and the logistical difficulties of managing a dispersed pharmacy team across the largest geographical area in Wales.
Harnessing the skills of pharmacist independent prescribers was highlighted as part of the visit and the role of the pharmacy team in working closely with social care colleagues to support discharge from hospital. The recent introduction of an automated storage and dispensing system in the hospital’s minor injuries unit, was also showcased, illustrating improvements in medicines security, storage and reductions in waste.
We met with Rhun Ap Iowerth, health spokesperson for Plaid Cymru, to outline our priorities for pharmacy as part of covid recovery. We outlined how access to pharmaceutical care should be embedded across the care pathway for patients with long covid, the need for referral pathways and integration of pharmacists in services and access to records and shared decision making. We also called for pharmacist knowledge, data and research capability to be called on when researching pathophysiology and pharmacological treatments for long covid.
Ensuring digital solutions are in place to enhance pharmaceutical care for the future was also a key discussion point. This included access to patient records in the community to enable effective independent prescribing services, and the implementation of electronic prescribing solutions across primary, community and secondary care to improve communication between professionals and reduce errors. We also highlighted the need for ongoing wellbeing support for the pharmacy workforce.
Working effectively with Members of the Senedd
We also met with Jack Sargeant, MS, who was recently appointment as a member of the Health Committee. This provided us and members of the Welsh Pharmacy Board to learn more about working with the Senedd, plus Jack’s top tips for getting the best from relationships with MSs.
There is still a great deal of work to do. Almost one third of the Senedd membership changed this year following the election to the Senedd. This means new politicians to work with and new opportunities to put forward the case for change for pharmacy. Our progress so far will stand us in good stead for ensuring the voice of the profession is heard. We can’t rest on our laurels however. Politics moves quickly and we are acutely aware we must take all opportunities to put pharmacy at the forefront of health care transformation in Wales.
Please get in touch if you have any issues you would like to us to raise with Members of the Senedd and if you would be interested in hosting a visit with your local constituency MS.