Conference speakers provide insight into the future of pharmacy

The theme for the Pharmaceutical Society of New Zealand’s 2019 conference held in Auckland on 10-11 August 2019 was “Towards Integrated Health.”

Attendees commented that the conference provided “lots of great ideas and insights” and “plenty of topics to stimulate discussion and inspire.”

The New Zealand healthcare system has many challenges to overcome, not least an aging population with lots of complex co-morbidities and workforce issues. These challenges are shared by healthcare systems around the world. As a result, the role of the pharmacist is set to change in the future.

International guest speakers at the conference Ravi Sharma and Professor Debra Rowett gave conference attendees an insight into how healthcare policy in the UK and Australia is changing and the future roles of pharmacists in integrated healthcare teams. Keriana Brooking from the Ministry of Health also presented an overview of health system improvement and innovation with pharmacy in New Zealand.

The future of integrated health: The UK experience

Ravi Sharma, Director for England at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society and previously National Clinical Lead for Clinical Pharmacy and Genomics at NHS England gave an inspiring presentation on the future role of pharmacists in the UK healthcare system.

“The NHS Long Term Plan was a significant policy document published in January 2019 which set out a clear vision for the NHS for the next 10 years. One of the key parts of that plan was to better utilise the clinical skills that pharmacists have in order to alleviate pressure on the NHS system.”

“What we have seen over the last 5 years in the UK has been significant investment from the Government and the NHS to really unlock the true potential of pharmacists.”

“So, what we are seeing is pharmacists integrated into general practice, pharmacists and pharmacy technicians integrated into aged care settings and pharmacist prescribers integrated into urgent care or NHS 111 services, which is being centrally funded by the NHS. Eventually all those pharmacists will be prescribers - independent, autonomous prescribers - to help alleviate the pressures on our NHS system.”

“Another key part of the NHS Long Term Plan is to enable community pharmacists to deliver more clinical-led services and to be remunerated in a far fashion for those enhanced community services.”

Ravi provided his insights into the approaches taken in the UK to help overcome the barriers associated with working in an integrated healthcare team, including service/contract alignment, education and training, data sharing, funding and the perceptions of other healthcare professionals.

“Over the last 5 years, there has been a complete shift in the opinions of both healthcare professionals and the public about how pharmacists can do more within the NHS from a clinical perspective. So, we’ve seen a considerable acceptance from the British Medical Association and the Royal College of General Practitioners working in collaboration with the Royal Pharmaceutical Society around the utilisation of pharmacists within these types of areas.”

Ravi sees an increasing role in the NHS not just for pharmacists, but for pharmacy technicians as well. “It’s about utilising the skills of your workforce effectively to deliver the best patient care and to enable everyone to work at the top of their license.”

“We want to make sure that the pharmacy profession is safeguarded for the future, that the profession lives for a long time, that new jobs are created, and that there is still the recognition from our healthcare system that pharmacists play a crucial role in the delivery of future healthcare.” 

Inter-professional practice, behavioural change and professional standards

Professor Debra Rowett, Discipline Leader from the School of Pharmacy and Medical Sciences at the University of South Australia and immediate past President of the Australian Pharmacy Council explained how our aging population brings an increasing use of medicines and a demand for a health workforce who can collaborate for best patient care.

Professor Rowett outlined how the transformation of the pharmacy workforce to allow for interprofessional collaborative practice requires new competency standards and ongoing training and education.

She highlighted the implications for the education and training needs of the current and future workforce, to enable us to harness technological innovation for the benefit of patients and staff, including preparing the healthcare workforces to deliver the digital future.

In the future we will see an increase in the provision of clinical care from a distance using telecommunications and information technology, including text, audio and video consultation.

As a result, there will be a change in pharmacists’ roles “from giving advice, to taking responsibility for follow up and monitoring patient health.”

Professor Rowett concluded her presentation by stating that “Pharmacy practice will continue changing beyond what the profession can imagine in the short term. Ensuring that pharmacists’ contributions to patient care stay relevant will need systems, policies and rewards which foster innovation and patient-focus and reflect the future needs of our society.”

New Zealand health system improvement and innovation with pharmacy

Keriana Brooking, Deputy Director General of Health Service Implementation and Innovation at the Ministry of Health outlined the New Zealand governments health priorities: equity, child wellbeing, mental health and primary health care.

She also outlined the challenges our health system is facing and how the system needs to adapt and change to meet these challenges head on.

“Primary health care is a key priority for Government; good primary care has an important role in prevention and acts as a gateway to the rest of the health system.”

Keriana explained what our system needs from its primary health care workforce and why we need to take a more integrated approach to delivering services that fully utilise the clinical skills of this workforce, so that our system delivers equally well for all New Zealanders.

She also provided an overview of The Pharmacy Action Plan which “describes a future in which pharmacist services, as an essential part of a people-powered, integrated model of care, are delivered in innovative ways across a broad range of settings so that all New Zealanders have equitable access to medicines and health care services.”

Keriana also talked about the opportunities offered by emerging technologies to power the health and wellbeing of New Zealanders and the new opportunities for pharmacists to provide extended healthcare services (e.g. flu vaccinations, etc).

Thank you to all those members who attended the conference and to everyone who completed the conference evaluation survey. We are pleased that over 85% of you rated the overall quality of the conference either very good or excellent. We hope you enjoyed the opportunity to learn from and network with your peers in the pharmacy profession.