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Alison Strath: Pharmacies could deliver systemic anti-cancer therapies

Community pharmacies could become hubs to deliver hospital treatments, such as “straightforward” systemic anti-cancer therapies, Scotland’s chief pharmaceutical officer (CPhO) Alison Strath has suggested to C+D.  

Many patients in Scotland currently being treated in hospital because their medicines “are slightly more complex” or “slightly more expensive” could be moved under community pharmacy supervision instead, Professor Strath argued in an exclusive interview with C+D.


Read more: Scottish pharmacy chief: Delivering vaccinations not ‘best use of pharmacists' skills’


While the Scottish government must “think about how to do that in a way that financially isn’t prohibitive to community pharmacy”, she added, “there are things we can do around that”.

Professor Strath, who became Scotland’s CPhO last August, said that patients could access some “very straightforward, systemic anti-cancer therapies, for example” via community pharmacies rather than hospitals.


“We call ourselves the experts in medicines”


Her comments come after Scotland's health secretary Humza Yousef announced last year that the government was still committed to “establishing a community pharmacy hospital discharge and medicines reconciliation service”, plans for which were first set out last summer.

“As we call ourselves the experts in medicines, we should be doing much more of that,” Professor Strath told C+D.

“It’s really important” that the community pharmacy network has “those whole system ways of working” in place with other health services and considers “how we integrate and transfer care between ourselves”, she added.


Read more: Scotland's 'fantastic' Pharmacy First service to expand after hitting 2m consultations


“Sometimes, we’re trying to fix something in the GP practice, which community pharmacy could do over a time period,” she said.

Equally, in hospital settings, “we’re trying to fix things before we discharge a patient, when actually, maybe in the GP practice, the pharmacy team working there, or the community pharmacy team could actually take that longer-term view around supporting that”, Professor Strath added.


Pharmacy “well placed” to provide monitoring services


When Professor Strath was asked what other services she would like community pharmacy to take the lead on, she told C+D that the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted to her the importance of research and data collection.

Community pharmacy could take on some “monitoring services”, for instance, as “we take on prescribing powers, the ability to adjust the patient’s medicine without them necessarily having to go back to see someone else”, she added.


Read more: Scotland invests £3.4m into pharmacy technician training scheme


But community pharmacy cannot “do everything” and should, when necessary, stop offering services that offer “less value”, balancing its resources to offer new services, Professor Strath argued. 

In August, the Scottish government unveiled its NHS Recovery Plan, which revealed that primary care investment would rise “by 25%, supporting GPs, community pharmacists, dentists and optometrists”.

At the same time, it also laid out plans to “establish a community pharmacy hospital discharge and medicines reconciliation service”, expected to start being rolled out “in the second year of this plan”, the government said, which is believed to be in 2023/24.


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