04 Mar 2024

Partnership to investigate how NHS can make best use of its pharmacists

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A partnership between Aston University and the Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) is to examine the feasibility of extending pharmacists’ duties to include more healthcare interventions, such as blood pressure checks and cholesterol screening.

The Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) will look at whether such extended duties could help to ease the growing burden on the UK’s National Health Service (NHS).

A KTP is a three-way collaboration between a business, an academic partner and a highly qualified researcher, known as a KTP associate. The UK-wide programme helps businesses to improve their competitiveness and productivity through the better use of knowledge, technology and skills.

Aston University is a sector leading KTP provider, with 80 per cent of its completed projects being graded as very good or outstanding by Innovate UK, the national body.

The PDA is the largest independent pharmacist representative organisation in the UK with more than 37,000 members.

It is a not-for-profit organisation which looks after the interests of individual pharmacists, supporting them in their legal, practice and employment needs. It also seeks to influence the professional, practice and employment agenda to support its members.

Pharmacists are highly skilled and could deliver more healthcare interventions than they do at present, alongside their role in seasonal flu and Covid vaccination programmes.

The PDA is seeking to advocate for an increased role for pharmacists by providing NHS policymakers with robust evidence of the feasibility, acceptability and impacts this would have.

The organisation is working with Aston University’s Professor Chris Langley from the School of Pharmacy and Dr Gemma Mansell from the School of Psychology who are carrying out the research and evaluation to produce this evidence.

Dr Langley is a practising pharmacist and researches how the NHS can better use pharmacists’ skills to improve the health of the population. Dr Mansell is experienced in designing, delivering, and evaluating healthcare interventions involving behaviour change.

Together with KTP Associate Dr Jason Tang, the KTP team developed a shortlist of health interventions that pharmacists could deliver to patients who have come for vaccinations.

The interventions were trialled at a community pharmacy in Dudley in 2023, then evaluated for their health impact and cost-effectiveness.

The interventions may then be adapted based on this evaluation and will be trialled again in 2024 to gain more data. Questionnaires will be used to assess patients’ and pharmacists’ reactions to the changes.

Alison Jones, director of policy, PDA, said: “There are already some moves to enable pharmacists working in the community to deliver more aspects of clinical care.

“For example, with appropriate training, pharmacists can also take on some aspects of the prescribing of medicines. This project will be an important part of that evolution, supporting individual pharmacists to have more opportunities to practice and so develop more fulfilling careers.”

Professor Langley said: “Since Covid, the way we deliver healthcare has changed. We have a backlog in diagnosing underlying disease and at the same time fewer face-to-face consultations.

“If we can make use of the time that pharmacists have with patients during their vaccinations to deliver other services, then that could help to ensure patients are diagnosed and can receive treatment much more quickly.”

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