Pharmacists have been urged to get involved at an early stage with 15 regional networks being set up across England to spread innovation throughout the NHS, because they will have an opportunity to influence their strategic direction, particularly around services for long-term conditions.
Academic Health and Science Networks (AHSNs) are being created by the NHS Commissioning Board to find new ways to deliver health services. They will consist of local NHS commissioners and providers, universities and industry partners and will be expected to work alongside clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) and clinical senates.
The networks are an opportunity for pharmacists to get involved with "the whole care pathway", NHS Lambeth clinical network lead and community pharmacist Ash Soni said.
"What pharmacists need to do is identify what the AHSN is, who the leadership are and then contact them" Ash Soni, NHS Lambeth
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AHSNs are being assessed by the NHS Commissioning Board before they are licensed to receive funding in April. Pharmacists should get involved with their local AHSN now while they are still being set up so they could influence their agenda, Mr Soni suggested.
"What pharmacists need to do is identify what the AHSN is, who the leadership are and then contact them," he told C+D.
"[AHSNs] should all have a list of priorities in terms of areas of care and therefore pharmacy needs to be engaged with that. [Pharmacists] should probably be involved with them all as a lot of them are going to be around long-term conditions," said Mr Soni.
The networks offered a "fantastic" opportunity for pharmacists committed to "working a bit differently", said Pfizer national policy leader Samuel Taylor, who has represented the pharmaceutical industry in talks with AHSNs.
"One of the biggest challenges the AHSN is going to be facing is how they're going to implement Nice guidance. A fair percentage of the Nice guidance will be medicine related, so pharmacy has a natural opportunity to say ‘OK, we've got some skills here'," Mr Taylor told C+D.
It would be easier for pharmacists to make their presence felt on AHSNs by going through their local pharmaceutical networks but, until these links were created, pharmacists could still approach AHSNs individually, said Mr Taylor.
According to a paper published by the NHS Commissioning Board, AHSNs will focus on the following areas:
● participation in research
● driving service improvement
● using patient-centred information to evaluate and improve
● collaboration on education and training
● translating findings into practice and knowledge management
● wealth creation and partnering with industry, both small and medium enterprises and global companies.
Ahead of the NHS reforms coming into effect on April 1, C+D is helping pharmacists get to grips with the new healthcare framework. Find out if you are up to speed with how clinical senates, local professional networks and health and wellbeing boards could affect your practice.
Do you think AHSNs could be the best way for pharmacists to influence long-term condition care in the new NHS?