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Tagged In:  Government News, NHS

The Government wants to make more use of community pharmacists to help realise its vision for a more efficient, seven-day-a-week NHS. But there are calls to expand the role of hospital pharmacists too.




There's been much discussion recently about using the expertise of community pharmacists to relieve pressure on GP surgeries and help smooth the way to a seven-day working model. But what about the 20% of the profession working as clinical pharmacists in NHS hospitals? While the vital contribution they can make as part of a multi-disciplinary team is already widely recognised, some experts are calling for their role to be expanded further.

With a relatively good supply of qualified clinical pharmacists available across the country and a shortage of doctors and nurses, making more use of pharmacists' skills seems to make sense. However, it's important that the role of the hospital pharmacist evolves in the right way, delivering the most effective outcomes for patients. This will not only get the best value from our clinical pharmacy workforce, but also encourage more young people to consider a career in this important but often overlooked area of healthcare.

In June the British Journal of Pharmacology published a study which found that prompt medication reviews by hospital pharmacists made no significant difference to the length of hospital admissions, mortality or readmissions. However, as several pharmacology professionals pointed out, this was a rather too specific performance measure. "It's important to look at pharmacist contribution in total, not a single intervention " said Ann Page, Lead Pharmacist in Education and Training at Hull and East Yorkshire NHS Trust and a member of the United Kingdom Clinical Pharmacy Asscociation (UKCPA) committee. "It's also vital to consider activity in hospitals as part of the wider NHS pharmacy service, linking into primary care schemes such as the New Medicine Service (NMS)."

An opportunity to improve patient care


The idea of expanding the role of pharmacists in UK hospitals was put forward in a 2014 white paper by Assistant Professor Brecht Cardoen of the Belgium-based Vlerick Business School. Entitled The Hospital Pharmacy of Tomorrow, the report said hospital pharmacists would 'positively impact patient care' by extending their core services and playing a bigger role in advising patients on medication and monitoring pharmaceutical care. 

"It is crucial that stakeholders realise how important the hospital pharmacy is and what a great role it can play in patient care, especially with the ageing population and increasing patient demands, " commented Professor Cardoen. However, he also warned of significant challenges in expanding the role of hospital pharmacists, including ensuring there is adequate support in terms of funding, legislation and technology.

In a recent blog for The Health Foundation, Northumbria Healthcare Trust Research and Development Pharmacist Wasim Baqir argued for hospital pharmacists to take on more prescribing. "The NHS needs to adapt and we need to start thinking about the skill mix better," he argued. "In my experience, prescribing pharmacists are an opportunity to deliver safe and effective care for many patients, releasing resource and capacity for medical and nursing practitioners. Now is the time to create the environment where these skills can be harnessed and used for the benefit of the patients and our NHS."

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