The current pharmacy funding contract must go. The new contract must put the patient-pharmacist relationship at the centre of its focus.
But first, we must consider the environment in which we will all have to work. In hospitals and in the communities, sustainability and transformation plans (STPs) are beginning to mark the start of changes, which include collaborative work to improve the care and experience of those using the NHS.
This means systems are being reorganised to deliver ‘population health’. Everywhere in the country, hospital discharge is being redesigned and teamwork being developed that would involve more collaboration between hospital and community-based pharmacists, to optimise not only medicines-related outcomes, but also ensure this interprofessional partnership delivers safety, effectiveness, patient experience and cost-effectiveness.
But to improve patient experience, the quality of interprofessional collaborative work needs to improve. Discharge notes need to reach community pharmacists and feedback must be given to their hospital colleagues.
There may be a need for a patient discharged from hospital to get support for behaviour change, such as in smoking cessation or weight loss. All this depends on pharmacists’ cognitive skills, knowledge of local systems, and relationship with the patient and their carer or family. For the patient’s sake, we need to start discussing this now.
Pharmacists need to be organised and come up with ideas for better outcomes. But before that, let’s consider the question: 'What’s the best environment for good ideas?' I believe a workplace where pharmacists share the profession’s values, but also feel free to be themselves, is in the interest of the patient's needs.
Diversity makes the profession smarter, more innovative and, in turn, a magnet for the very best talent. Pharmacists with the best skills and expertise who feel empowered to contribute as their authentic selves, is what we want to create.
The NHS and pharmacy owners need to focus on creating a stronger relationship between hospital and community pharmacists, and between pharmacists and communities.
The earlier the STPs focus on this relationship-building work, the earlier our profession will deliver the best health outcomes for our local populations.
Hemant Patel is secretary of North-east London local pharmaceutical committee and is also running as a candidate for the Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s English pharmacy board