by Ross Gregory, Head of External Relations, Royal Pharmaceutical Society in Wales
Time to Influence
Throughout the year, RPS speaks on behalf of its members in Wales at the highest strategic levels. We do this with pride and professionalism to influence the change we want to see in health care. Most importantly, we can help improve patient outcomes through the interventions of pharmacists.
While the issues vary considerably, one variable remains a constant: influencing change takes time. The recent publication of a National Assembly report into dependency on prescription drugs reminded us of this very fact.
Rewind to 2017…
We were invited to advise on deliberations by the Petitions Committee in December 2017 into prescription drug dependence and withdrawal. The work followed a petition to raise awareness of the plight of individuals in Wales who are affected by dependence on, and withdrawal from, prescribed antidepressants and benzodiazepines.
As with all consultative processes, we were able to draft a comprehensive response to this particular partition, following consultation with the Welsh Pharmacy Board, RPS Members, and by exploring the latest professional guidelines and evidence base.
As a direct result of our advice, two clear recommendations have been included in the report:
- Recommendation 3: The Welsh Government should restate and emphasise antidepressants should not be routinely prescribed for mild depression in guidance to healthcare professionals, and should provide assurances that sufficient alternative treatment options, such as psychological therapies, are available across Wales.
- Recommendation 9: NHS Wales should make better use of the expertise of pharmacists to support evidence-based prescribing, patient monitoring including regular patient reviews, and increased provision of help with tapering and withdrawing from medication.
We are thrilled that these recommendations have been made and we fully welcome the Committee’s report published on 21 March. We will continue to advocate that pharmacists have an important role to play in identifying and reducing dependency on prescription and over the counter medicines.
The issue of prescription drug dependency has been creeping up the agenda for some time and we have been vocal in our view on this among decision makers and in the media. This new report marks a way forward now and we fully support the progress being made.
Continuing the journey
As with any change process, this report is not the end of the work. In fact it is more of a beginning. How the Minister for Health responds to the recommendations of the report is the next important step in this sequence. We will be watching closely to see how the Welsh Government intends to commit to the recommendations and will continue to be vocal during this process when needed.
The Petitions Committee report on drug dependency is just one example which highlights that influencing takes time. Time for influencing is critical to the work we do and RPS membership matters. We have the role of taking the views of our membership to decision making tables to help shape the environment for pharmacists. This may take time but our members can rest assured that the RPS are looking out for them and taking all steps possible to put pharmacy at the forefront of healthcare.