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NHS begins process to recognise consultant pharmacist posts in wake of 2013 reforms

Loss of national system for approving posts means dozens of positions in England are yet to be recognised officially.

A backlog of consultant pharmacist posts in England yet to be recognised officially is likely to take until 2016 to be cleared. In the image, a hospital pharmacist looks at patient records

Source: Jason Holmes

Interim arrangements to recognise consultant pharmacist posts were presented at an event in London organised by the Royal Pharmaceutical Societyin London

At least 39 consultant pharmacists hired by the NHS — covering specialities such as oncology, diabetes and mental health — are awaiting formal recognition that their posts meet the requirements of Department of Health guidance.

Health Education England (HEE) has launched interim arrangements to recognise the posts amid calls to do so from chief pharmacists, whose desire to avoid risks associated with inconsistent development and deployment of these roles was described to attendees of a recent Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) event. It is likely to take until 2016 before all new consultant posts are recognised.

When the role of consultant pharmacist was first introduced into the NHS in 2005, the Department of Health published guidance of the requirements for new appointments and strategic health authorities (SHAs) organised approval panels. In 2013, SHAs were abolished in the NHS reorganisation and left the country without a national system to approve new appointments.

The process is now referred to as ‘recognising’ rather than ‘approval’. This process ensures consistent standards for the posts — important for safe and effective care. The title should apply only to those appointed to approved posts, where there is adequate competence and not solely in recognition of excellence or innovative practice, the guidance states.

‘No system in place’

The RPS has 68 consultant pharmacist members and Fellows as of 30 July 2015, though there may be others with this title who have not joined the Society.

The situation was discussed at an RPS-organised event in London on 16 June 2015 to celebrate the ten-year anniversary of the role’s introduction.

Susan Sanders, director of London Pharmacy Education and Training and a member of HEE’s Local Education and Training Board Pharmacy Leads’ Group, told the event: “Since the abolition of SHAs, there has been no system… to recognise consultant pharmacists’ posts. [There is] demand from chief pharmacists who really want to make sure there is due process and governance [and] make sure the title continues to be meaningful.

“There’s also a desire to avoid any risk associated with inconsistent development and use of these posts, and a fear that that is happening in some places already.”

Sanders is now leading the interim work on behalf of HEE “to clear the backlog of posts – either posts that are already in place and people have been recruited into [them] that need to be recognised retrospectively, or new ones going forward,” she said.

She added that previously, in the absence of a national system, “I have had to say to people: please go ahead and put people in posts pending recognition, because otherwise it’s just not practical – patient care will suffer, and it just didn’t seem sensible [to do otherwise]”.

Panels to follow Faculty framework

Interim recognition panels will follow the DH guidance but substitute the Advanced and Consultant Level Competency Framework specified in the document for the more recent RPS Faculty Advanced Pharmacy Framework.

Panels will be convened later in the year and these will, for each case, either recommend that the post be recognised formally; seek additional information from the applicant organisation; or refer the application back for further development and resubmission, Sanders explained.

Outcomes of the interim arrangements — such as the demand for recognition encountered, number of posts submitted and any issues arising — will be reported to HEE, which will determine whether a nationally facilitated process is needed and whether continued support from HEE is appropriate.

Sanders said there is also a need to review whether the 2005 DH guidance is still fit for purpose for the NHS, though this should not be allowed to slow down the process of recognition.

The consultant pharmacist role was created to ensure the highest standards of pharmaceutical care were available to patients, making the best use of pharmacy skills in patient care. It also intends to strengthen professional leadership and provide new career opportunities to retain pharmacists’ expertise in practice.

Posts ought to be structured around expert practice; research, evaluation and service development; education, mentoring and overview of practice; and professional leadership, according to Sanders.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2015.20069082

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  • A backlog of consultant pharmacist posts in England yet to be recognised officially is likely to take until 2016 to be cleared. In the image, a hospital pharmacist looks at patient records

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