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NHS England’s Bruce Warner defends ‘clinical’ pharmacist ‘distinction’

NHS England’s deputy chief pharmaceutical officer has defended its use of the controversial term “clinical pharmacists” by claiming “not all pharmacists can do everything”.

Responding to criticism over NHS England’s continued use of the “clinical pharmacist” term to describe only those working in hospitals or recruited into GP practices, Bruce Warner said: “I do not accept that all pharmacists can do everything just because they are pharmacists.”

“We’ve used the term clinical pharmacist for years to talk about those pharmacists in a very patient-facing role that, more often than not, have post-graduate clinical qualifications and specific skills to do that specific role,” he told the all-party pharmacy group (APPG) at a meeting on Tuesday (January 15).

“A lot of work up until fairly recently in general practice has been doing audits and data work,” Mr Warner continued. “The push now is towards patient-facing, clinical reviews.”

“No such thing as a non-clinical pharmacist”

Mr Warner was responding to criticism from Labour MP Julie Cooper, who argued that “there is no such thing as a non-clinical pharmacist”.

“All pharmacists are clinical [and] they are all trained in the same way. Anybody...with an in-depth understanding will realise that is the fact of the matter,” Ms Cooper stressed.

The term “clinical pharmacist” implies those in community pharmacy are of a “lesser quality”, and can lead to public confusion, she added.

“Pharmacists are not all trained the same”

In response, Mr Warner said pharmacists receive the same training initially, but “over the course of their careers [they] are not all trained the same”.

“Our training throughout our careers leads us down certain paths and so I think there are distinctions between pharmacists,” he added.

During the APPG meeting on how community pharmacy can help deliver the NHS long-term plan – which was published last week – NHS England’s director of new business models and primary care contracts Ed Waller said the commissioning body was committed to expanding the “number of clinical pharmacists in local networks”.

NHS England made six references to “clinical” pharmacists in the plan – hailing them as “a key part of the general practice team in primary care networks”. Community pharmacists and pharmacies were referenced four times in the 136-page document.

What do you make of Mr Warner's remarks?

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