Royal Pharmaceutical Society

Why Clinical Academic Careers are Important for Pharmacy

By Natasha Callender, Future Practice Advisor, NHS England and NHS Improvement

In my role as part of the Chief Pharmaceutical Officer’s Team at NHSE&I, it has been exciting to lead the project on clinical academic career pathways for pharmacists and pharmacy technicians. It was work I started when I was a Clinical Fellow with the team, working with the late Professor Peter Kopelman; Christine Bond, Emeritus Professor (Academic Primary Care), University of Aberdeen and co-Chair of the Clinical Academic Careers in Pharmacy Short Life Working Group; Dr Keith Ridge CBE, former Chief Pharmaceutical Officer for England; and now with David Webb.

I was fortunate as an undergraduate to be based at an Academic Health Science Centre and was inspired by clinical academics. It spurred me on to apply for study abroad experience in the final year of the MPharm, where I completed a research project at University College San Francisco working with a subsidiary of Quintiles and later secured an National Institute of Health and Care Research (NIHR) Master Studentship award and completed a Master in Clinical Research (MClinRes), which preceded the Pre-doctoral Clinical Academic Fellowship.

After my MClinRes, I had to decide whether to return to clinical practice or continue in academia. It is a difficult decision many make as undertaking both is challenging, but five years later I find myself leading a project on Clinical Academic Careers in Pharmacy.

The vision is to develop a flexible pharmacy workforce that embraces innovation and research. At present there are several gaps in our understanding about the abilities of individual pharmacy professionals, organisations and systems to undertake research.

As part of the project, NHSE&I established a Clinical Academic Careers in Pharmacy Short Life Working Group to advise and agree on proposals. Evidence suggests that research active healthcare settings provide better care to all patients, not just those patients taking part in the research. Furthermore, taking part in research and developing research skills can be a rewarding and beneficial experience for pharmacists and pharmacy technicians, both personally and professionally.

A UK wide Call for Evidence on Clinical Academic Careers in Pharmacy was launched on 9 May 2022. The work is being conducted by NHSE&I with the support of the Pharmacy Schools Council, General Pharmaceutical Council, Health Education England, NIHR, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) and the Chief Pharmaceutical Officers from the Devolved Administrations.

Another initiative relevant to developing a research active pharmacy workforce includes the RPS delivery of a suite of e-learning modules to improve pharmacy professionals’ awareness, knowledge and skills in clinical research as well as supporting them to become more research active. It follows a successful bid to the NIHR and will be launched later in 2022.

The aim of the UK wide Call for Evidence is to identify enablers and barriers to increasing research capacity and identify and understand examples of successful initiatives which can be used as an evidence base to inform the development of future clinical academic research pathways in pharmacy

To take part in the call for evidence, please complete the following surveys by 17.00 on Friday 3 June 2022:

Individuals who are a pharmacy professional e.g. a registered pharmacist or pharmacy technician who is research active or would like to be research active should follow this link.

Organisations that have been successful in developing initiatives to support pharmacy professionals to undertake research or would like to develop initiatives to enable pharmacy professionals should follow this link.

The findings from the UK wide Call for Evidence on Clinical Academic Careers in Pharmacy intend to inform the development proposals for the first stage of an initial delivery model for developing a clinical academic pharmacy workforce. They will be summarised in a report to the four UK Chief Pharmaceutical Officers.


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