Blogs are not edited by PJ staff*. The opinions expressed in this blog do not necessarily reflect those of The Pharmaceutical Journal.
*Blog pieces that have previously been printed in the PJ and Clinical Pharmacist are edited.
In light of recommendations and agreements made by Tuesday’s government listening exercise with the NHS Future Forum, the PJonline’s latest news report was positive about a changing role for pharmacists in the NHS. The much talked about ‘GP consortia’ commissioning groups taking over from PCTs will now be more multi professional in make up than first proposed, which is clearly a good idea in terms of accountability and the provision of holistic patient care.
The profession on the whole has seemed to quickly welcome the idea of
this particular change. I even read that
the prime minister expects pharmacists to play a key role in commissioning,
which perhaps explains why the latest proposals are being seen as an
opportunity for pharmacists as important healthcare professionals with often
underestimated valuable input to be recognised both politically and practically
in decision making. Here is our golden opportunity to embrace the use of our
professional judgement in the interest of patients and the public.
All of this assumes that it is right for health care professionals themselves to be predominant decision makers in the capacity of a clinical commissioning group. It is true that community pharmacists may be well placed to determine and advise upon the health care needs of a particular community whether as part of clinical commissioning groups or in liason with local authority health and well-being boards. Pharmacists keen to engage with local needs and other health care professionals could certainly use the proposed new set up force advice giving and decision making which is both patient orientated and economical. But is this the golden opportunity the profession has been waiting for? Have we, or should we have been waiting?
Although encouraged that the government are seemingly willing to listen to feedback and implement changes which make much sense, I remain unconvinced by all proposals made in relation to Liberating the NHS. Introducing a multi disciplinary element into proposed clinical commissioning groups is an IPL (Inter Professional Learning) dream, but the BMA says the success of these changes will be either seen or unseen in the working out of practicalities.
I love the idea of being involved in the allocation of services to the places most needing them, but would the frustration of maximising limited resources within a population take over from individual patient care as my first priority? Is this tension wise? The latest changes to the bill are good news for the profession of pharmacy, but I feel strongly that it’s important for us to avoid being schmoozed into simply accepting changes without critically considering their potential implications in terms of the impact funding cuts will have on patient care.
Steps towards greater accountability will be implemented but absolute transparency is the Holy Grail whilst the issues of competition, privatisation and a patient-choice induced postcode lottery remain big questions and concerns; these should still be shaping the debate.
In truth, having been a first year student not super enthusiastic for my subject, over the last couple of years I’ve been quietly developing a genuine interest in the profession of pharmacy which is growing as I think about the future. Why should pharmacists be waiting for NHS reform, or a place on a commissioning committee to provide a specific ‘golden opportunity’ to embrace our part in the changing and ever widening role of pharmacy? We have every opportunity to get actively involved in the provision of the highest quality services here and now, and a continuing responsibility to see that cost cutting changes don’t lead to compromise in the quality of patient care.