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RPS chair hopes placing 180 pharmacists in care homes is ‘first wave’

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s (RPS) English board chair hopes the recruitment of more than 200 pharmacists and technicians into care homes is only the “first wave”.

One hundred and eighty pharmacists and 60 pharmacy technicians will be deployed in care homes to aid residents’ medicines optimisation, according to NHS England plans released earlier this month (February 2).

NHS England told C+D it will be “progressing the scheme over the next few weeks…for deployment in 2018-19”.

“The bespoke training pathway and independent prescriber training have already been commissioned in collaboration with Health Education England, and will be announced shortly,” it added. “Detailed guidance on the scheme is in development.”

The care home roles will be commissioned by clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) and funded by the Pharmacy Integration Fund over two years, it said.

Speaking to C+D yesterday (February 13), the RPS’s Sandra Gidley said there would appear to be enough funding for a “second wave” of recruitment after the initial pilot.

Ms Gidley’s “number one piece of advice” for pharmacists and pharmacy technicians interested in participating “would be talk to your local commissioners”, she said.

Training for the roles will be free, but participants will not be paid for attending, which could be “difficult” for those losing the income from a day’s work, she added.

The cost of the scheme, and the CCGs involved, have not yet been made public, she confirmed.

Scheme a year behind schedule

Ms Gidley said there had been “two or three times over the past three months when I thought [the scheme] wasn’t going to go ahead at all”.

The initiative was first announced in October 2016, with an original start date of April 2017. At the time, NHS England said the scheme would include “deployment of pharmacy professionals in care homes, and funding workforce development for pharmacists who work in care homes – including a prescribing qualification”.

The scheme had still not materialised by July 2017, when England’s chief pharmaceutical officer Keith Ridge said the initiative would help pharmacists and technicians “to deliver the standards which we expect as set out by [the National Institute for health and Care Excellence] on medication use in care homes, to improve residents’ health and outcomes, and therefore to optimise medicines use in care home residents”.

“First glimmer of hope”

Ms Gidley said that after the lack of government reaction to the ‘Murray’ review into clinical community pharmacy’s clinical services, which she branded the “biggest disappointment” of 2017, “this is the first glimmer of hope that anyone is thinking about anything clinical for community pharmacists”.

“It may look like a drop in the ocean, but the more evidence we can get that pharmacists can do this, the better, she told C+D.

“If the opportunities [for pharmacists] aren't embraced despite the hurdles, then those won't be there in the future,” she said.

“Much as I love the supply model and can see all the advantages of having that access to the patient or the community, we've got to look at the way the world's going. If we don't think seriously about this stuff, we're doomed.”

Have you contacted your CCG about participating in this care home scheme?

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