At NHS England I’m responsible for making sure the recently announced new roles in care homes – 180 for pharmacists and 60 for pharmacy technicians – get up and running and the necessary training is in place. But why work in a care home in the first place?
I’ve spent many years working in care homes in Northumbria. Pharmacists and technicians working together in care homes is a fantastic opportunity to drive up standards of safe, high quality care. In addition, the job satisfaction is enormous. You get a personal sense of achievement when you stop medicines which are unnecessary and harmful, when you stop waste that’s costly to the system, and work together across boundaries with your community, hospital and general practice colleagues to offer more to residents.
Reducing the risks
We know residents are at highest risk when they first come into a care home. Studies show only 1 in 10 older people discharged from hospital remain on the same medicines they were taking when admitted to hospital. Community pharmacists and hospital pharmacists working together at point of discharge, with a community pharmacy follow-up, perhaps with the offer of New Medicines Service support, not only enhances the care of that patient, it reduces their risk of re-admission to hospital.
Working in a new way
I think as pharmacists, we need to stop thinking of our individual contributions to the whole system, but we need to think the whole system itself and how we fit in. When you start working in a care home you have an opportunity to integrate into existing services and work as part of the multidisciplinary team, which is the only way forward.
None of the improvements needed are, of themselves, difficult to achieve but require a new approach by all professionals involved in care at a local level.
There are pharmacists and pharmacy technicians doing some great work in care homes, working across the different sectors – general practice, community pharmacy, hospital, clinical commissioning groups. What I’d like to see is those teams working better together. It’s actually about leadership by the whole team of doctors, geriatricians, nurses, pharmacists, technicians, care home staff, everyone working together. It’s about relationships, trust and having the right conversations. We need pharmacists and technicians who want to work in this way and face the challenges that it sometimes represents, to get involved in improving the care of our most vulnerable residents in care homes.
At present we are still working at strategic level to create processes and systems that will deliver the success we want. Jobs will become available locally over the coming months so keep an eye out on www.jobs.nhs.uk.