Posted by: Connie Pringle16 JUN 2011
In light of recommendations and agreements made by Tuesday’sgovernment listening exercise with the NHS Future Forum, the PJonline’s latestnews report was positive about a changing role for pharmacists in the NHS. The muchtalked about ‘GP consortia’ commissioning groups taking over from PCTs will nowbe more multi professional in make up than first proposed, which is clearly agood idea in terms of accountability and the provision of holistic patientcare.
The profession on the whole has seemed to quickly welcome the idea ofthis particular change. I even read thatthe prime minister expects pharmacists to play a key role in commissioning,which perhaps explains why the latest proposals are being seen as anopportunity for pharmacists as important healthcare professionals with oftenunderestimated valuable input to be recognised both politically and practicallyin decision making. Here is our golden opportunity to embrace the use of ourprofessional judgement in the interest of patients and the public.
All of this assumes that it is right for health care professionals themselvesto be predominant decision makers in the capacity of a clinical commissioninggroup. It is true that community pharmacists may be well placed to determineand advise upon the health care needs of a particular community whether as partof clinical commissioning groups or in liason with local authority health andwell-being boards. Pharmacists keen to engage with local needs and other healthcare professionals could certainly use the proposed new set up force advicegiving and decision making which is both patient orientated and economical. Butis this the golden opportunity the profession has been waiting for? Have we, orshould we have been waiting?
Although encouraged that the government are seeminglywilling to listen to feedback and implement changes which make much sense, Iremain unconvinced by all proposals made in relation to Liberating the NHS. Introducing a multi disciplinary element intoproposed clinical commissioning groups is an IPL (Inter Professional Learning)dream, but the BMA says the success of these changes will be either seen orunseen in the working out of practicalities.
I love the idea of being involvedin the allocation of services to the places most needing them, but would the frustrationof maximising limited resources within a population take over from individualpatient care as my first priority? Is this tension wise? The latest changes tothe bill are good news for the profession of pharmacy, but I feel strongly thatit’s important for us to avoid being schmoozed into simply accepting changeswithout critically considering their potential implications in terms of theimpact funding cuts will have on patient care.
Steps towards greateraccountability will be implemented but absolute transparency is the Holy Grailwhilst the issues of competition, privatisation and a patient-choice inducedpostcode lottery remain big questions and concerns; these should still beshaping the debate.
In truth, having been a first year student not super enthusiastic formy subject, over the last couple of years I’ve been quietly developing agenuine interest in the profession of pharmacy which is growing as I thinkabout the future. Why should pharmacists be waiting for NHS reform, or a place on acommissioning committee to provide a specific ‘golden opportunity’ to embraceour part in the changing and ever widening role of pharmacy? Wehave every opportunity to get actively involved in the provision of the highestquality services here and now, and a continuing responsibility to see that costcutting changes don’t lead to compromise in the quality of patient care.