By Patricia Ojo, member of the RPS Community Pharmacy Expert Advisory Group
As health professionals, we all know that the health service is under extreme pressure at the moment. As well as managing normal winter demand, COVID cases are rising, waiting times are at an all-time high in general practice and secondary care, and staff are tired and over-stretched. It’s a perfect storm.
Better use of pharmacists is crucial
It’s crucial that we use all our staff and resources as effectively as possible. As a qualified prescribing pharmacist based in the community sector, I’m desperate for my prescribing skills to be better utilised now to support the NHS and my local community.
I’ve worked in healthcare for 30 years; 23 as a Pharmacist and 30 as a Nurse with a hiatus until 2016, across the NHS in primary, secondary, and tertiary care, as well as in the Out of Hours/ Integrated care setting. Since qualifying as a prescriber, I have developed a wide range of competency areas that I can practice autonomously in, which I was able to use in General Practice and also in the Integrated care settings. These competencies are, particularly essential to my practice as a Community Pharmacist.
Unfortunately, I’m not empowered to do so on behalf of the NHS.
My enthusiasm for community pharmacy prescribing comes from my previous job, where I ran a Community Anticoagulation Clinic within a community pharmacy branch. It was an award-winning practice, and we delegated and prioritised responsibilities to deliver multiple services alongside other health care practitioners.
I was keen to replicate a prescribing service in my next job, but despite my best efforts was unable to get NHS funding. I currently offer a prescribing clinic paid for privately by those that use it but I want to provide service accessible to all regardless of the ability to pay. Despite my local community having access to high quality care from my pharmacy many are choosing to go to the GP. I strongly believe my pharmacy can both open up access to NHS services to my local community and reduce pressure on GPs if the service was funded by the NHS.
As a pharmacist based in England, I envy my colleagues in Wales and Scotland, where their prescribing skills are utilised effectively in a community setting. They provide patients with access to effective advice and treatment relevant to their circumstances.
And they’re funded by the NHS!
Patients and healthcare providers in England are missing out on this great service, which is accessible, close to home and with huge potential to decrease workloads elsewhere - because of a lack of funding.
The RPS Independent Prescribing Policy calls on commissioners to maximise the use of pharmacist independent prescribers - a policy which I wholeheartedly support.
What needs to happen?
For Community Pharmacy to thrive, for the NHS to get value for money, and for patients to get the care they need close to home, we need an Independent Prescriber Policy like that of Scotland and Wales.
I would urge commissioners to consider the skills that are in community Pharmacies within their area and to work collaboratively to enable the vision of truly accessible NHS care at the point of need. The Community Pharmacists know the patients and the local community needs, they see the change that can be made and if listened to, will provide a much needed value for NHS money than is currently achieved