RPS at Conservative Party Conference

By Sibby Buckle FRPharmS, Chair, Pharmacy Digital Forum and English Board member

A rainy Manchester was the setting for this year’s Conservative Party Conference. The slogan “Get Brexit Done” emblazoned across the outside of the convention complex to greet the mix of party members, campaigners and lobbyists. It was a recurring message throughout the proceedings, with the party of government looking to focus on issues other than Europe, but Brexit still dominated much of the speeches and debates.

With a new Prime Minister, a reshuffled Cabinet, and continued speculation over a potential general election, the backdrop for this conference was far from usual. Indeed, after a Supreme court ruling, Parliament itself was still sitting while the conference was going on. Would opposition parties try to table votes so that Conservative MPs would have to travel back to London? Would there be a vote of no confidence in the Government? Would the Conference need to finish early? As it was, none of this came to pass and the party managed to set out its agenda largely unimpeded.

The policy announcement on health which received the most attention in the news was for the extra £13.4Bn funding for hospital infrastructure, but there were lots of other events and debates in the conference fringes as well.

I was delighted to join representatives from a number of Royal Colleges at a roundtable on workforce, hosted by the Royal College of Physicians and the British Medical Association, as well as Health Committee member Andrew Selous MP and Marcus Fysh MP. The discussion focused on how to make the NHS the best place to work and how we can support recruitment – a key theme of the Interim NHS People Plan. This is a big focus for the RPS, looking at a range of issues such as education and training, recruitment into new roles such as in primary care networks, and how pharmacists’ mental health can be supported in an often-pressurised work environment.

I also raised the need for funding for Community Pharmacists to train as Independent Prescribers (IP’s) to help ease the pressure on GP’s, and encourage the public to visit their ‘Pharmacy First’. This is becoming more pressing as the move to give prescribing rights to Physicians Associates, Anaesthetists Associates, and Clinical Scientists increases. I don’t want our Pharmacy profession left behind!

Fringe Events

At an NHS Confederation fringe on “The NHS in a post-Brexit world” with Vicky Ford MP, a member of the Science and Technology Committee, I highlighted how pharmacists are key to helping patients access their medicines, particularly in the event of potential shortages. Indeed, we have already had the first ‘Serious Shortage Protocol’ (SSP) announced.

I then hot-footed it to a roundtable with Turning Point on health inequalities and the Government’s prevention green paper, using this opportunity to flag the need for an agreed mechanism for Pharmacists to be enabled to, and fully engage in, ‘social prescribing’.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock MP spoke really positively about pharmacy later that day “in conversation” with the Centre for Policy Studies. When asked about the new announcement on hospital funding, he went on to highlight the importance of supporting prevention and how pharmacists can play a vital role in helping people stay healthy and out of hospital, as well as treating minor ailments in the community and taking pressure off GPs. He welcomed the direction of travel set out in the new community pharmacy contract so that pharmacists can provide more services and said he hoped this would be further expanded in future to make even greater use of pharmacists’ clinical skills.

It was great to hear the message getting through about how pharmacists will be really important to helping deliver the NHS Long-Term Plan. With the “final” NHS People Plan expected in the coming months, we’ll keep talking to Government and the NHS about supporting the profession to get the best results for our patients.

Yes, a conference focused on Brexit, but with Health still firmly on the agenda.

Your introduction to drug safety

Professor Saad Shakir, Director at Drug Safety Research Unit

We are delighted to be joining forces with the Royal Pharmaceutical Society to provide this course to introduce pharmacovigilance to pharmacists. Pharmacovigilance is defined by the European Medicines Agency as “the science and activities relating to the detection, assessment, understanding and prevention of adverse effects or any other medicine-related problem.”

Monitoring safety and pharmacovigilance are key activities during the lifecycle of a medicine, both at the pre-marketing stage and once it is licensed for use in humans. No medicine is without risk of adverse effects and the science of drug safety involves assessing and optimising the risk-benefit balance for each medicine.

This course will detail the key role that pharmacists have to play in pharmacovigilance and will explain why it is important to report adverse drug reactions and methods for doing so. Presentations will be complemented by interactive sessions.

Routine risk minimisation measures are required for each drug and include the SmPC, PIL, packet size and the legal state. For products where these are considered insufficient, additional risk minimisation measures will be required in order to optimise the risk/benefit balance and maintain patient safety in everyday use of the drug. Community pharmacists are frequently involved in additional risk minimisation measures usually at the point at which a medicine is dispensed. For example, pharmacists may be asked to keep a log to indicate whether they have provided a patient card to the patient with their medicine (in addition to the PIL) and explained its use. The patient card may list serious potential side effects and actions to be taken in the event of occurrence.

This blog aims to provide you with a glimpse of the course. We do hope that you will be able to join us!

Book your place now

https://events.rpharms.com/website/672/home/

Thinking of a career in drug safety?

By Dania Shamil MPharmS, MSc, PV Manager of International Pharmacovigilance and UK QPPV at Vertex Pharmaceuticals

Having worked in various sectors of pharmacy including hospital, community and academia I found my passion in drug safety and the pharmaceutical industry. I wanted to improve my technical knowledge in drug safety, therefore I completed an MSc in Pharmacovigilance (PV) soon after my MPharm degree at the Drug Safety Research Unit (DSRU). I recognised that I had a great career ahead and my enthusiasm grew knowing that I could ensure patient safety by monitoring the adverse effects of marketed or investigational drugs. It is a great career for a pharmacist as you are still able to use the scientific knowledge gained in a MPharm degree, as well as develop new skills.  drug safety it is a very important role in the drug lifecycle! With the increasing changes in drug safety regulations globally, I am continuously developing my technical PV knowledge as well as my analytical skills, which is the central theme in a PV career. No two days are the same! 

I am the founder and leader of the ‘Thinking of a career in drug safety course’. It is a new and exciting course for anyone interested in a career in drug safety. Previous experience is not required. The course helps pharmacists understand the opportunities that the pharmaceutical industry presents.

The course is taught by leading experts who have extensive experience in drug safety and who will share their insights and provide advice for the array of career options. The course will introduce the importance of drug safety, how this affects patients and what it is like to work in a patient safety department. Practical workshops will give delegates an understanding of the ongoing and proactive drug safety activities which are taking place in the patient safety departments and the key partnerships with health authorities to ensure that the patients are safe whilst they are taking medicines.

Dania Shamil MPharmS, MSc, PV Manager of International Pharmacovigilance and UK QPPV at Vertex Pharmaceuticals.

RPS at Labour Party Conference

The Labour Party Conference was back in Brighton for their 2019 event. But this was not a usual political setting. And as the Supreme Court hearing on the Tuesday ruled that parliament had been suspended unlawfully, the conference atmosphere seemed focused on matters elsewhere.

But even in this environment, the party was able to explicitly set out some of its key policy agenda and health received a great deal of traction from figures within the shadow cabinet. Even before I arrived at the conference, the Shadow Health Secretary Jon Ashworth had already announced that a Labour government would scrap prescription charges for patients in England, like they already are in Wales and Scotland. As a member of the Prescription Charges Coalition, a group of nearly 40 health organisations, the RPS has long called for an end to these charges and is something that we would welcome. Leader Jeremy Corbyn used his closing speech to outline his ambition to introduce a state-owned drug company to provide cheaper, generic medicines for the NHS, citing the cystic fibrosis drug Orkambi as a prime example of medicines being too expensive for the NHS to fund. The RPS is now awaiting further details on how this would potentially work in the future.

Fringe Events

As expected, a lot of the events that I attended focused on the challenges to healthcare posed by Brexit. The Shadow Health Secretary, like many other MPs, repeatedly emphasised how a no deal Brexit would leave the UK significant medicine and staffing shortages. Workforce was also a theme across the conference, specifically analysing government funding and the implementation of the NHS Long-Term Plan. At a Fringe on “Wearables, WiFi and Workforce: Is the NHS fit for the future?”, I was delighted to hear from panel members highlighting their concerns to MPs regarding current healthcare conditions, such as why a lack of basic digital capabilities in patient records across sectors may tamper with future NHS development. This is a key topic for the RPS at the moment and we will continue to engage with stakeholders about what new technology could mean for pharmacy.

The high-profile policy proposal made by Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell of a National Care Service, which would provide free care to all over-65s meant there was also many events on social care. At an event titled “Is now the time for a Nye Bevan moment in social care?”, which the panel included Julie Cooper MP, Shadow Minister for Health and an officer on the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Pharmacy, questions were raised regarding staff recruitment in new roles across new NHS systems. It was a great pleasure to introduce myself on behalf of the RPS and speak to MPs about the important role pharmacists play in supporting patient health by preventing and detecting conditions, as well as publicise recent RPS campaigns on a variety of topics, such as our recent diabetes and cardiovascular disease reports. With the ever-growing possibility of a general election in the coming months, we’ll continue to talk to MPs about what they will do to help support and raise the profile of the profession.

Jonathan Bisby

Our mentoring relationship

Being a mentee: Aamir Sheikh

I met my mentor Aamer Safdar whilst working at Kings College London. I was the 3rd year Professional Lead, and was introduced to him and he told me about his background, both personal and professional.  Just by listening to him, I knew that his values were similar to my own. 

Challenge

I now work at BUPA as the Chief Pharmaceutical Officer’s Clinical Fellow, but before that I worked within the Education Directorate at RPS.  It was there I worked alongside Aamer in projects involving undergraduates.  You will hear that pharmacy is a small world and this is one such example!  My manager explained how it is important to work alongside colleagues who will challenge your thinking and I found this in Aamer.  Our mentor/mentee relationship first established when we went out for dinner as a post-work group; it was here when I decided to formalise my mentor/mentee relationship with him. 

Benefits

I’ve benefited greatly from the mentor/mentee relationship. It’s given me thinking space but its been advantageous to both my personal and professional life to have someone to challenge my own thinking in whatever situation or scenario I am experiencing.  In our last meeting Aamer and I spoke about authenticity, congruence and integrity.  I found it particularly useful hearing from someone in Aamer’s position, a current GPhC Council member and previous RPS English Pharmacy Board member, about how important it is to stay true to your own values and what these values really mean.

We use the RPS mentor platform to record our meetings and have found that, as well as the normal methods of keeping in touch, the platform has been beneficial in keeping us focused. I couldn’t stress the importance of having a mentor enough.  It has really helped me focus whenever I have found myself in a sticky situation and I’m grateful for the time Aamer has shared with me.

Being a Mentor: Aamer Safdar

I have been a mentor to many people inside and outside of pharmacy and have used a variety of methods with my mentees which have included traditional face to face sessions as well as mentoring exclusively by email and by phone; in the latter two cases, I never met my mentees in real life until much later in our relationships! 

I currently mentor two pharmacists, at different stages in their careers, using the RPS mentoring platform.  The platform is useful because I have outlined the areas in which I would like to mentor in to manage my mentees’ expectations. 

Sharing experiences

In both of my meetings, we spoke about our careers and challenges at different levels and I was able to share my experiences and wisdom from both my day job and from being in national boards.  Much of my wisdom has come from my own mentors, who have been different people at different stages of my career,and with different perspectives and advice.  Without a mentor to bounce things off, I doubt I would have done many of the things I have done in my career.

Find out more about our mentoring scheme exclusively for members

What did I write in my peer discussion?

By Chris John

The windscreen wiper (yes my car only has one) was hypnotically moving back and forth as I waited for the Bournemouth to Swanage car ferry to get me across Poole harbour for the start of my summer holiday. It was 10am, 12 degrees centigrade and lashing down with rain. I opened a flask of coffee and wondered why I had put sandals on that day (no not with white socks). At least I had managed to get my peer discussion written up before driving down the M3.

I’d followed the instructions carefully when writing it (I have been known for not reading exam questions properly). I gave the name of my peer, her role, organisation, contact number and email address. Then I wrote how my peer discussion had changed my practice for the benefit of service users – I began by explaining my role on a panel (committee) that I was part of, which assessed the education of schools of pharmacy, medicine, nursing and other healthcare courses. It was my role to provide advice on pharmacy professional education and help score undergraduate courses (bronze, silver or gold) by using a set methodology looking at lots of data and written submissions. In this case, the other members of the committee were my service users and the advice I gave them was hopefully beneficial as it would support robust decision making and awarding the right medal!

My peer RX had asked in the peer discussion how I knew I was up to date in order to provide appropriate advice. RX had also asked me what the other panel members thought about my input to the panel. So, I went away after our session and re-read the initial education training standards (and the proposed ones) for pharmacy as well as the standards for medicine and nursing. This helped me understand approaches across the professions (there were similarities). I also read some research about pharmacy students’ readiness for practice and education approaches that supported their entry into the profession. The panel had a discussion at the end of all our meetings about my role (and those of the other professional representatives) and described the input as very useful. All decisions were ratified – sometimes with a vote but usually following a discussion of the evidence presented. I had been able to highlight up to date practice and felt satisfied with the advice I had given.

The summer is now nearly over. RX has got a new job so I will need to change all her contact details in my peer discussion record. The car ferry broke down later that summer. I hope the GPhC website doesn’t have a broken drive shaft! I need the inter-webular to ferry my revalidation records off to them before too long…

If you would like more information about Peer Discussion – take a look at our peer discussion tutorial.

https://www.rpharms.com/development/revalidation/peer-discussion/peer-discussion-tutorial

Strengthening Antimicrobial Stewardship through training

by Vincent Ng, Professional Development Pharmacist

The challenge   

This year the UK Government updated its 5 year action plan on Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR), which details ambitious goals such as reducing antimicrobial usage in humans by 15% and halving gram negative blood stream infections by 2024.

A major part of this plan involves improving how antimicrobials are used through Antimicrobial Stewardship, for example by reducing inappropriate prescribing. As experts in medicines and advocates for medicines optimisation, all pharmacists have a role to play.

Supporting pharmacists through training

Earlier this year, we delivered a 3-month training programme to pharmacists from primary and secondary care in London, Kent, Surrey and Sussex, funded by the Health Education England AMR Innovation Fund. This was an exciting opportunity for us to support pharmacists from a range of settings and scopes of practice to learn about Antimicrobial Stewardship and get involved in their workplace.

What did the training involve?

  • Face-to-Face training day delivered by national experts
  • Quality improvement project in the workplace, supported by online group feedback sessions facilitated by UKCPA Pharmacy Infection Network tutors
  • Structured self-assessment and self-directed learning
  • GPhC revalidation entries
  • End of training assessment with experts from our Antimicrobial Expert Advisory Group

What our learners are saying

“I was given the opportunity to be part of the AMR programme this year and found the programme very useful. It has propelled me in the right direction with regards to leading on AMR within my organisation.  The key resources provided during the programme and the link to a tutor gave the confidence I needed to complete my project. My quality improvement project involved the review of patients with UTI to ensure appropriate prescribing and accurate documentation process.  Although the project was only focused on a small cohort it was very useful to see the changes and improvement that was made. I have not just stopped with the project but have also made myself an AMR champion with AMR now formally included in my work plan. I am now creating a training matrix to increase awareness within my organisation.”

Jenkeo Olowoloba, Community Health Specialist Pharmacist, Medway Community Healthcare

“The training helped me develop my skills as a competent and confident AMS practitioner. Participating in this training programme enabled me to significantly improve my quality improvement skills, extending my skills beyond audits and re audits. I demonstrated QI methodology and embedded behavioural interventions to improve the quality of the 72-hour antibiotic review carried out by clinicians.  I also designed a scoring tool on the Perfect Ward App to measure the quality of an antibiotic review which led to reducing data collection time from 15 minutes to 5 minutes. I enjoyed the entire experience and valued the constant support provided by our tutors, RPS team and colleagues. The practice-based discussions benefitted my practice significantly, being able to share ideas and learn from experts as well as each other. Thank you RPS for an amazing opportunity!

Bairavi Indrakumar, Senior Clinical Pharmacist, Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust

Getting started

Take the first step by finding out more about how your organisation is doing against key AMS indicators. Work with your peers and colleagues to better understand how things are working. PHE Fingertips and OpenPrescribing.net are examples of useful open-access sources of data that you can explore.

Talk to your key stakeholders to come up with shared objectives and work together on a plan to make improvements.

Inspire and get inspiration

Why not link up with others who are also working on AMS and AMR?

We are undefeatable: join the campaign to get active!

by Suzanne Gardner, Sport England

I am part of the team that has developed Sport England’s “We Are Undefeatable” campaign. It aims to support people living with health conditions to build physical activity into their lives, in a way that their condition allows, and to celebrate every victory big or small.

The TV adverts you’ll have seen are inspired by, and feature, the real-life experiences of people with long-term health conditions getting active despite the ups, downs and unpredictability of their condition.

Pharmacists already play a key support role for the 1 in 4 people now living with at least one long-term health condition. People with health conditions are twice as likely to be inactive[i] despite the compelling evidence for the role of physical activity in the prevention and management of long-term conditions.

Want to get involved? Check your activation pack!

Many pharmacists are already supporting people to get active through the Healthy Living Pharmacy scheme. To help you make the most of the national campaign 12,000 Community Pharmacies in England have been sent activation packs, which include:

  • An activation brief providing details about the campaign and links to resources to support you to have physical activity conversations with customers. These include the Faculty of Sport and Exercise Medicine’s Moving Medicine resource (developed in partnership with PHE and Sport England), the Royal College of GPs Physical Activity and Lifestyle Toolkit and the PHE E learning for health physical activity modules.
  • 2 A4 posters featuring Jo and Heraldo (Two of the Undefeatables).
  • 100 conversation starters and a dispenser for these for use in the pharmacy.
  • Access to a campaign film for use on screens
  • Social media content.

Healthy Living Bonus

The great news is that these resources can also be used to help meet the Healthy Living Pharmacy requirements linked to lifestyle advice and physical activity.

And if the campaign inspires you to get active yourself it’s a bonus!

Further copies of these resources can be accessed through the Public Health England Resource Centre  https://campaignresources.phe.gov.uk/resources


[i] (Sport England (2019) Active Lives Survey 2017/2018).