May 28, 2015, by Editor

The expanding role of pharmacists?

Here is the latest post from Faye Greenwood.

In the wake of the A&E crisis which consumed many hospitals this winter, the role of pharmacists, their extensive under-utilised clinical knowledge and expertise and their potential contribution to healthcare was once again brought to the fore.

NHS England announced in December that Health Education England (HEE) would pilot the role of pharmacists in A&E departments as part of NHS England’s urgent and emergency care review. This trial program took place in the West Midlands from December 2013 to August 2014 with the results illustrating the benefit of having pharmacists involved throughout the urgent care pathway. The potential role of clinical pharmacists in a multidisciplinary team to improve emergency care is set to be further investigated with the HEE pilot expanding. HEE began initiating a five-week pilot in March 2015 within 65 trusts (nearly double the expected 36 A & E units expected to take part). The aim of the pilot programme was to identity if pharmacists’ knowledge and skills would be conducive to effective working within an emergency department, ensuring patients are seen and treated safely, effectively and quickly.

The potential role of pharmacists in A&E is also being explored at North Manchester General Hospital where the trial of a pharmacy clinic within A&E has been initiated. Here, pharmacists look after patients with 21 minor injuries and ailments e.g. minor burns, earache, neck pain, ringworm, tendonitis etc. with clinic aiming to see patients within 30 minutes of arrival and within 15 minutes after triage by a nurse. This service (funded by Lloydspharmacy) enables patients to be treated faster or to be referred more quickly to the appropriate department.

Along with the expanding role in hospitals, due to increased pressure on GPs in local communities The Royal College of General Practitioners and the Royal Pharmaceutical Society proposed on the 17th March that more pharmacists should work in GP surgeries in order to ease pressure, to address the shortage of GPs, to improve patient safety and care and to reduce appointment waiting times.

The role of Pharmacists is constantly evolving from the introduction of independent prescribing to the enhancement of services in the community e.g. sexual health (chlamydia testing) and the provision of vaccinations.  Missed hospital targets over the winter months stimulated the discussion for the inlusion of pharmacists within A&E, however it appears the profession is gaining greater responsibility with the potential for a permanent presence within Emergency Departments presenting a cost effective solution to reduce high demand and stress on the NHS and GPs.

Faye Greenwood is a third year MPharm student in the School of Pharmacy.

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