Author: Suzanne Scott-Thomas, Chair of the Welsh Pharmacy Board
At our 6th Annual Medicines Safety Conference on November 3, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society in Wales (RPS Wales) launched its policy Improving Care for People with Long Term Conditions. As part of our RPS campaign across Great Britain, this policy and its recommendations aims to improve the care of people with long term conditions through better use of medicines and greater engagement of the skills of pharmacists. Taking into account the increased prevalence of long term conditions and comorbidities, the policy takes a holistic and strategic view of our profession’s role in four key areas of long term conditions care:
- Prevention & Self-Management
- Timely Detection
- Treatment & Monitoring
- Palliative & End of Life Planning
Our policy aligns with current strategic drivers for the NHS in Wales and identifies the key enablers to empower our profession to make a significant improvement to the care of people with long term conditions, while also helping to tackle capacity challenges faced by the NHS in Wales. The principles of professional empowerment, workforce re-design, coproduction and utilising technology are all put forward in our policy to drive forward the changes needed for the future.
I am grateful for the dedicated work of the steering group, made up of members of the Welsh Pharmacy Board and led by our Policy and Practice Lead in Wales, Elen Jones. We were also delighted to be supported by a large advisory group that included pharmacists working with long term conditions patients in both Wales and England, together with representatives from Community Pharmacy Wales, the Wales Chief Pharmacists’ Group, the Royal College of Nursing, the Royal College of Psychiatrics, the Older People’s Commissioner for Wales, the MS Society, the Alzheimer’s Society and Novo Nordisk. The importance of managing long term conditions was evident across all these organisations and we were particularly thankful to receive a number of supporting statements from a number of those organisations plus clear support from the Royal College of General Practitioners and the Royal College of Physicians.
Welsh Government Response
A few weeks prior to the policy launch, Our Director for Wales, Mair Davies, and I met with the Cabinet Secretary for Health, Wellbeing and Sport, Vaughan Gething AM, to brief him on the key points and recommendations made in the policy as well as to highlight examples of good practice currently being undertaken by pharmacists to support patients with long term conditions.
It is very encouraging to the Cabinet Secretary repeatedly recognising the good work done by pharmacists in managing long term conditions very recently. We were pleased to welcome Mr Gething as a keynote speaker at our Medicines Safety Conference when he recognised the burden that long term conditions are placing on NHS Wales and stated that he was “pleased to see RPS Wales stepping up to the challenge of long term conditions with their new policy”.
Subsequently, when giving evidence to the Assembly’s Health, Social Care and Sport Committee in November, the Cabinet Secretary emphasised the importance of the role of pharmacists in the Primary Care Cluster network. Commenting on this Mr Gething said:
“[There’s] been a real positive engagement between pharmacists and those clusters on improving medicines management. We have lots and lots of people who have multiple chronic conditions that they’re managing and dealing with, and, actually, those medication reviews, and that input from the pharmacist, have been really important for the individual, who has been going and taking part in that treatment, as well as from the GP as well, and understanding how those different choices work.”
It is clear that the important role of pharmacy in managing long term conditions is being recognised and is on the agenda of the Cabinet Secretary. However more work is needed. The publication of our policy and our initial conversations with the Cabinet Secretary is only a starting point. Together with colleagues and partners, we have to generate activity and momentum to ensure the recommendations are implemented in full. This will require engagement with a range of stakeholders including Welsh Government Officials, Welsh Assembly Members, Local Health Board officials and others. This work has begun in earnest, with meetings with Dr Dai Lloyd AM and Dawn Bowden AM of the Assembly’s Health, Social Care and Sport committee having already taken place.
We also want to make sure that our members are fully engaged with this policy. We would like to get members on board to promote pharmacists’ involvement in the management of long term conditions. If you would like to get involved we can come to your workplace and discuss your role in long term conditions management; perhaps during a “learning at lunch” style session or we can arrange to meet with a group of local pharmacists to explore ways of improving long term conditions management in your area. Please get in touch on Wales@rpharms.com if you would like to know more.
We are also exploring the possibility of running training with organisations such as Diabetes Education and Self-Management for Ongoing and Newly Diagnosed (DESMOND), for pharmacists on the management of diabetes and other long term conditions in the community.
We were pleased to receive good practice case studies from pharmacists working in community, hospital and cluster settings during the formation of our long term conditions policy. The more examples of good work being done by pharmacists in caring for people with long term conditions, the stronger our case will be. Therefore, we still very much welcome hearing more about examples of good practice that we can promote and highlight to the key decision makers in the government and the NHS. If you are involved in such work, please get in touch with us on firstname.lastname@example.org.