by Jodie Williamson, Professional Development and Engagement Lead at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society in Wales.
Last week 3000 pharmacists from 108 different countries came together in Glasgow for the International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP) World Congress. This is a conference where pharmacists from around the world can share advances and developments from their country with an international audience in order to improve the benefits patients get from their medicines on a global level. With RPS hosting this year’s conference, I was lucky enough to attend and represent our team in Wales. FIP World Congress last came to the UK nearly 40 years ago, so getting to attend the conference so close to home was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me.
We know that healthcare systems around the World are facing increasing pressures and demands on their services and this resulted in a real sense of the need for pharmacy services to change amongst all delegates. It was an eye-opening week for me!
I learnt about how community pharmacists in Portugal are now working with general practices to offer early screening for a variety of conditions and are able to refer patients directly to the most appropriate services if a condition is identified, relieving the pressure on their GPs. They also run clinics with nurses and nutritionists to offer advice about diet and nutrition on the high street and now their patients are calling for them to be able to request blood tests and interpret their results. Community pharmacies are the first port of call for most healthcare needs in Portugal.
I also attended an emotive and thought-provoking session on death and dying. We heard from countries where euthanasia has been legalised about the role of pharmacists in the process and how they are trained and supported to deliver excellent end-of-life care. The session challenged my thinking around the guiding principle for healthcare professionals to do no harm. An excellent quote that resonated with me during the session was “sometimes death ends suffering, not life”.
On the other hand, the conference also made me realise how lucky I am to be trained and practicing in the UK. Our healthcare system, the quality of our training and development, and the standards that we work to are the envy of so many pharmacists from around the World. Whilst I learnt a lot from other countries a number of our Welsh pharmacists were also presenting their innovative work. From our community pharmacy Discharge Medicines Review (DMR) service to developments in cancer care at Velindre Cancer Centre, our pharmacists are doing an excellent job of putting Wales on the map as leaders of the profession on a global scale!