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Pharmacists as leaders: A journey we should all be on to help the DPP shortage

As independent prescribing (IP) will be a requirement for the MPharm degree, Danny Bartlett explains his recommendations for a successful “exciting evolution of practice

With the impending 2025/26 General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) changes, meaning there will be an influx of prescribing pharmacists, it is vital that all of us within the profession reflect on how to fill the supervision and leadership need.

There are many pharmacist prescribers or pharmacists embarking on their IP journey between now and the GPhC changes, and I think it is these pharmacists who are in the opportune position to reflect on whether they are working in siloes within their organisations, or whether there are new opportunities at a wider inter-system level to collaborate and take the profession forward.

Read more: Where are all the designated prescribing practitioners?

In my opinion, both primary and secondary care could help to support and take some of the supervision burden off the shoulders of community pharmacies while the sector adjusts to a clinical facing shift in its practice. It is clear that both for the government and the leadership of the profession that community pharmacy is headed on a trajectory that involves offering more clinical and bespoke services to patients, such as the emerging pathfinder sites and rollout of the Pharmacy First scheme.

However, there are many key things that need to gain traction before the sector is able to upskill its own workforce, let alone the incumbent influx of newly qualified prescribing pharmacists. The industry needs to finalise contracting and agree payment for these additional services. It also needs to have functional and complete read-and-write access to patient health records to see the complete picture.

Before these two essential things fall into place and are in place long enough for the sector to adapt, I believe it is essential for pharmacists in primary and secondary care to help expose pharmacists, both experienced and new to the profession in their sectors, to aid this adjustment process.

I would encourage all GP pharmacists to offer to take community pharmacists in cross-sector experiences, with exposure to the general practice clinical systems as well as enabling closer working relationships than the primary care GP teams and the community pharmacy teams.

Read more: What does the NHS workforce plan really mean for pharmacy staffing issues?

Furthermore, I would encourage multiple community pharmacies that are planning on taking foundation year trainee pharmacists next year to incorporate a general practice rotation into their trainee’s year to take some of the supervision burden from the community pharmacy. Community pharmacies will be expected  to demonstrate expertise in all aspects of the GPhC’s competencies. Come 2025/2026, these abilities will include IP so building these cross-sector relationships in preparation for the change in initial education can only be a good thing.

Read more: Making the most of the IP course

Working in both the general practice sector as a primary care network (PCN) lead pharmacist, but also teaching undergraduates in the MPharm degree, it is clear to me that this collaboration can start from more pharmacists in every sector, volunteering to take more undergraduate students on placement, to become familiar with the requirements and experiences of taking and teaching students.

By experiencing supervisory roles and having every qualified pharmacist, at every stage of their career journey, experience teaching, we all become better leaders and supervisors, and the quality of the profession naturally progresses.

I would challenge anyone who already has a supervisory or educational role within their own practice or sector to reflect on whether they are continually developing their systems to enable good quality supervision and a quality learning environment. If not, I would suggest they reflect on the positive changes they need to make to improve this before the new GPhC changes are enforced so we can ensure newly qualified prescribing pharmacists are supervised in a sustainable and safe way.

Read more: NHSE launches funded community pharmacy prescribing supervisor training

Any pharmacist that has the ability to develop themselves to become a designated prescribing practitioner (DPP) should look into this as a matter of urgency. It is only through voluntary self-development that pharmacists destined to become leaders within our profession are able to emerge and thrive, and this is vital for pharmacy to sustain on this exciting evolution of practice.

Danny Bartlett is a lead pharmacist at Horsham Central PCN, senior lecturer at the University of Brighton and English pharmacy board member at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society

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