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Health and care policy

How the RPS in Wales helped shape the vision for pharmacy's future

In summer 2018, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) in Wales was approached by the Welsh Pharmaceutical Committee (WPC) — the statutory advisory group for pharmacy matters for the Welsh government — to undertake an important piece of work. Vaughan Gething, minister for health and social care in Wales, asked the committee to set out a future vision for pharmacy in Wales, essentially outlining what pharmacists and the wider pharmacy team would be doing on a day-to-day basis in 2030, and how they might fit into future healthcare systems.

The WPC asked RPS Wales to project manage the creation of a document encompassing the future vision. We were tasked with the facilitation of the research and stakeholder engagement phase of the project, as well as the writing, design and creation of the document itself. Elen Jones, then deputy director of RPS Wales (and since appointed as director of RPS Wales), was to lead the project. We were asked to complete it by the beginning of April 2019.

A vision for pharmacy 

First, we held a launch workshop at the Cardiff University School of Pharmacy, at which Andrew Evans, chief pharmaceutical officer for Wales, introduced the Welsh government’s strategic overview document for the future of healthcare in Wales, ‘A Healthier Wales’.

The aim of the document on a vision for pharmacy was to come up with the specific ways that pharmaceutical care could change to benefit public health in ways that the overview document envisioned. The launch workshop, held at at Cardiff University’s School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences on 22 August 2018, was a really high energy day. Pharmacists and pharmacy technicians from across Wales, representing a wide range of healthcare sectors, came together to discuss their ideas around the issues facing pharmacy professionals today, and talked about where pharmacy is going in the future. We were inundated with innovative ideas and creative solutions to the challenges facing the NHS.

The next step was to build on the initial workshop and make sure that we had consulted as many members and colleagues as possible about what they want to do in future to give the best patient care. It was vital that the document represented everyone involved in pharmacy, so we could all commit to making it happen as a united team.

In autumn 2018, we took our consultation workshops on the road, attending Community Pharmacy Wales contractor events and holding pharmacy technician-specific events to ensure they had a chance to provide their own feedback and ideas.

We’ll take every step we can to encourage political parties to incorporate the short-term recommendations into their manifestos for the Welsh Assembly elections in 2021

Recognising that the future of pharmacy will increasingly become part of a wider multidisciplinary approach to care, we have been engaging with other professional bodies and the third-sector patient groups, including the Future Generations Commissioner for Wales, the Royal College of Nursing, the College of Paramedics and the Alzheimer’s Society. We took every opportunity to sense check and test our thinking as we developed the visionary proposals with these groups. An example of this was a meeting we had with senior Welsh government officials to help align the vision to broader approaches in science, technology and innovation.

More than 400 colleagues attended an engagement event or contributed feedback to the project — we couldn’t have done it without them.

In early 2019, with support from the WPC and other key individuals, we were able to refine the contributions and ideas from our engagement and discussions, and help with the creation of a document entitled ‘Pharmacy: Delivering a Healthier Wales’. This document contains a selection of long-term goals and principles for improved pharmaceutical care in Wales, as well as short-term actions required to transform the role and contribution of pharmacists, pharmacy technicians, pharmacy teams and pharmacy premises.

It’s an ambitious document, but transformation of pharmaceutical healthcare is needed if the citizens of Wales are to maximise the health gains that come from interactions with members of the pharmacy team in all healthcare settings. We hope this document will guide that transformation.

From vision to reality

Now that the long-term plan for pharmacy in Wales is complete, the WPC will submit it to Gething for his approval. We are confident that he will fully endorse the principles within it, and commit to implementing the recommendations in the future.

RPS Wales will continue to be involved and we will use our influence and advocacy skills to build engagement with the vision among key decision-makers and stakeholders. We will take every step we can to encourage political parties to incorporate the short-term recommendations into their manifestos for the Welsh Assembly elections in 2021.

Since ‘Pharmacy: Delivering a Healthier Wales’ aims to bring about widespread systems change, the delivery of our vision will be challenging and will require a concerted effort from a range of colleagues and stakeholders from across pharmacy and the wider health and social care system. That’s why one of the highest priority asks we are making of the Welsh government is to create and fund a national delivery programme board to focus on implementing the recommendations and principles contained in the document. We’ll commit to being a key player on this board.

Transforming the future of pharmacy in Wales by 2030 will undoubtedly be challenging, but with RPS Wales at the centre of the effort, we can make sure that our members will be able to input at the highest strategic level.

Together, we can lead the pharmacy profession to where it belongs: the forefront of healthcare in Wales.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2019.20206596

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