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

by Jonathan Bisby

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.

Our mentoring relationship

Being a mentee: Aamir Shaikh

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?

Update! We’ve been commissioned to provide AMS training in England in 2020. Find out more and book your place.

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). 

Women in leadership: believe and achieve!

by Amandeep Doll, RPS Regional Liaison Pharmacist

This year I am delighted to be co-chairing our Women in Leadership event on 3rd October 2019 with the RPS President Sandra Gidley.  We had an incredible response to our event last year and want this year to be even bigger and better!

Believe and Achieve

The theme of this years event is Believe and Achieve. The day is full of practical advice and workshops to help you believe in yourself, celebrate your successes and be comfortable with your ambition. We have sessions with Clare Howard and Frances Akor who are current leaders; they will be sharing who their role models are and what values they believe you need to be successful.

Women are often negatively labelled according to their personality traits such as ‘too aggressive’ when they’ve demonstrated confidence in their roles, and others have included ‘too serious’, ‘too questioning,’ ‘too emotional’ and ‘too caring’.

You’ll learn how to achieve your next leadership role by challenging these stereotypes, as well as getting practical advice on how to overcome difficulties, increase your resilience and craft a winning CV.  We have workshops by Harpreet Chana and Heather Fraser from IBM on increasing your confidence and position yourself to get that leadership post.

To embrace the diversity of experiences and beliefs that women bring to leadership teams we also have a men as allies session, to celebrate the differences between men and women and how we can work together to be a successful team.

You’ll leave the event feeling more confident to apply for and take on leadership roles and also to support female colleagues to take those steps to becoming a great leader. 

Come and take part in our Women in Leadership event on 3rd October.

A question of confidence

by pharmacist Harpreet Chana, certified professional coach, speaker, trainer and founder of the Mental Wealth Academy

I am so excited to be leading a workshop on confidence at the RPS Women in Leadership Event! After attending the event last year and learning that the main barrier we face as women in progressing up the ranks within our sector was confidence, I wanted to run a workshop to address this issue and am delighted to be doing so.

Never too late

From my own experience, I understand that confidence, resilience, emotional intelligence and better outer/inner communication are essential life and leadership skills. They enable us to be mentally tough, deal with life’s challenges and are core skills that help reduce the impact of mental health on performance and life fulfilment. We are not taught these at school or university, but the good news is, it’s not too late! We can still learn these vital skills and how to apply them to our daily lives so that we are all much healthier and happier individuals as a result.

Confidence matters

How confident are you really? Has there ever been a time where a lack of confidence has stopped you from going for what you really want? From speaking up? From asking for a pay rise/promotion? From putting yourself forward for opportunities at work or at home?

How do you talk to yourself on a daily basis? Are you very critical of yourself if you make a mistake or can you forgive yourself and seize the opportunity to grow and learn from every slip-up? No matter how confident we think we are, there are always times when a lack of confidence or our biggest fears can hold us back from achieving our true potential. My confidence mini masterclass will help you to address how you see yourself and to appreciate how truly awesome you really are!

Come and take part in Harpreet’s workshop at our Women in Leadership event on 3rd October.

Advocating for change – the unseen work

Ross Gregory, Head of External Relations, RPS Wales

by Ross Gregory, Head of External Relations, RPS in Wales

Discussions at the recent Welsh Pharmacy Board meeting reminded me of the sheer breadth of advocacy work we are taking forward on behalf of our members. The quality and volume of work is quite incredible, as is the commitment of the RPS team and our Board Members. Yet, much of this hard work is unseen until a final outcome is arrived at.

As quick wins in the world of advocacy are rare (see previous blog on our influencing work) I wanted to take this opportunity to outline some of the key work that is currently underway in Wales to influence change and improvement for the profession and our patients.    

Your voice at the top tables

We continue to work with the Welsh Government to ensure our members interests are represented in national policy and guidance as well as strategic decisions.

Read more Advocating for change – the unseen work

Asking patients using pharmacy services what they need

by Stephanie West, RPS Regional Liaison Pharmacist

In our previous blog, Nicky Gray spoke about the ‘strength and authenticity’ of relationships between stakeholders as central to successful integrated working. The same holds true when engaging the populations we serve. Promoting a positive patient experience of health and social care services, through providing integrated out-of-hospital care for patients, is a central aim for PCNs.

Community pharmacy has firm foundations to build upon. The National Healthwatch Report 2016 found that:

  • Three quarters of people say they would go to a pharmacist, rather than a GP, to get medication for a minor illness.
  • Over half would go to a pharmacist to seek advice for a specific minor illness or injury.
  • A third of people would consider using a pharmacy instead of visiting a GP for general medical advice.’

Community pharmacy was also the healthcare service of choice for ‘traditionally harder to engage groups.’ Significantly, the report found that participants ‘trusted the pharmacist’.

Asking patients

One thing that strikes me is – how are patients being consulted and educated about the increasing clinical services delivered by pharmacists? How is the patient voice being captured?

GP Practices have engaged with patients through Patient Participation Groups for many years, to make sure ‘that their practice puts the patient, and improving health, at the heart of everything it does’ These could be a useful forum to capture patient views on new ways of accessing care from the wider PCN team. If you are part of a group focussing on the role of pharmacists in the practice, please get in touch.

Community pharmacists have to conduct an annual patient survey. This focuses on traditional services and advice-giving and could be developed to raise awareness of different clinical services. 

The Berwick Review called for the NHS to ‘Engage, empower, and hear patients and carers at all times’. NHS Trusts have patient and public engagement strategies, recognising the importance of capturing patient views. There are opportunities to do this, many trusts will have patient representation on their Medicines Safety Committee, but can we engage them more widely as strategies for pharmacy and medicines optimisation are developed across Integrated Care Systems?

Shared decision-making

Liberating the NHS: No decision about me without me  focussed on shared-decision making. How are pharmacists ensuring that patients are fully involved in decisions about their own care and treatment? How is pharmacy linked with local communities, groups and networks? NICE Guidance identifies Shared decision-making as ‘an essential part of evidence-based medicine’ and the NHS Patient Safety Strategy 2019 commits to: ‘Commission shared decision-making (SDM) training for clinical pharmacists moving into PCNs, to work with patients with atrial fibrillation (AF) on anticoagulants’.

Get in touch

Our new System Leadership Resource section on ‘Culture Change’ includes a focus on meaningful engagement with local people. If you have a case study showing how you have improved health outcomes or developed a service through patient engagement, shared-decision making and/or co-production we would like to share your insights so please do contact us.


 


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