Time to be brave and bold

Over the past few weeks, I have had the pleasure of seeing my daughter graduate from her MPharm course at Reading University, attended a stakeholder meeting for a new School of Pharmacy at Swansea University and been a judge in the Alliance Healthcare Future of Pharmacy Student Award. All these experiences have led me to question the future of our profession – not just community pharmacy, but our profession as a whole. 

My wife is a pharmacist and I am one too, so I guess it was no surprise when our daughter chose the same vocation. As many of you will haveexperienced, being at your child’s graduation is one of the proudest moments of your life. As she embarks on her pre-reg at Bath Royal United Hospital and my wife and I near the end of our careers, what will our profession look like in the future? 

Do we really know what health and social care will look like in the future? With an ageing population, financial challenges, value-based healthcare, gene therapy, personalised medicine, artificial intelligence and the digital revolution, to name but a few issues facing the health system, it will be very different.  

Without a clear vision, are we able to plan our future workforce? What we do know is that the roles required will be very different from today’s. So, as a profession, should we, and can we, control our own destiny?

My time on the Swansea stakeholder committee was spent trying to second guess what our profession will be like in 2024, when the new School’s first cohort graduate. It would be easy to go down the same old route and fulfil a scientific degree but not have graduates properly prepared for their pre-reg, let alone their future career. We must be brave and bold. We discussed all graduates being independent prescribers, an integrated five-year course, more practice-based teaching, and meaningful planned placements along with multi-professional and multi-sectoral training. What is clear is that the pharmacists of the future will need to play their part in multi-professional teams that provide patient-centred care and embrace technology to deliver improved, measurable patient outcomes. Our biggest strength is that we are the experts in medicines.

What about our current workforce?

Our newly qualified colleagues are already well placed to embrace change, but those of us who are a little longer in the tooth must embrace change too. Many are already making it happen, pushing the boundaries, embracing innovation and driving forward new and exciting roles in all sectors. 

I just hope that community pharmacy can now regain momentum after the conclusion of the High Court action. We need to clearly understand what the Departments of Health and NHS want from our profession, what our patients want from our profession, and what we want for our profession. The status quo is not an option. Change will happen, so we can either be done to, or co-produce our own future. Let’s find workable solutions to supervision, to improved efficiency of the prescription supply function and let’s ensure we add value to the supply chain by exploiting our clinical expertise. In return, we must be valued for our unique professional contribution and, above all, be fairly remunerated. 

Future of Pharmacy Student Award

Once again, the judging for the Alliance Healthcare UK Future of Pharmacy Student Award, run in collaboration with the BPSA, proved extremely insightful. The topic set for the students this year was: how can community pharmacy use technology to overcome the challenges facing our profession? It was fantastic to receive the highest response ever in terms of entries for this award, and the range of topics covered gave me a lot of confidence that the future (along with that of my daughter) is safe in their hands. As our winner, Mariam Mirza, summed up: “Pharmacy has evolved to meet the challenges of the modern world, diversifying the role and championing personal health for patients in the community. With medicines optimisation at the heart of what we do, technological advancements can help us address future challenges with agility, without losing out on quality.” 

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