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Published on 23 October 2008

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Pharmacy in the UK: putting pharmacists at the core

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In the past few months, keeping pace with Transcom developments has been very interesting for those engaged with the crucial work of producing a prospectus for a new professional body (NPB) for pharmacy. The transparent, inclusive process of this consultation hopefully will encourage professional ownership of the NPB.

As ever, full reports from the Transcom working groups can be found on the Transcom website (link below).

CPD and revalidation
The CPD and revalidation report makes it clear that the NPB should be inclusive of all sectors of the profession, and should be mindful of developing clinical roles and the potential for the NPB to support members in maintaining and developing their professional capability from day one of their membership and throughout their working career.

The NPB should widen its role towards stewardship of a curriculum for the profession, which encapsulates learning and skills development across the landscape of context, aims, syllabus, standards, outcomes, assessment and performance. Without this “route map” reflective practitioner development will not proceed.

From a leadership perspective, a commitment to CPD does not guarantee professional competency, but a failure to have such a commitment may lead to professional incompetence.

All members should have access to quality-assured certification of their competence in a way that meets the regulator’s requirements for revalidation and future regulation of higher levels. This would be an additionally useful function for accreditation of more complex service delivery models and commissioned services. An important infrastructure is a local “deanery” model of support, with accountability to the professional standards of the NPB. There should be also support for those who fall short of requirements.

Improved, advanced and specialist practice
The improved, advanced and specialist practice group report reflected a similar approach, and described the relationship between the GPhC, NPB, the practitioner and, once again, a local deanery type body (local programme board) focusing on implementing a professional development framework via a local infrastructure for practitioners (collaboration between employers and higher education institutions (HEIs), together with significant providers of CPD, eg, CPPE). This will enable people working at general level in all branches of the profession to improve and advance their practice through support for CPD and revalidation.

The accompanying appendix has a diagram showing how the general board will link to pre-qualification and general-level development, and a specialist board will link to advanced-level (including PhwSi) and advanced ii level (including consultant).

This appendix hopefully answers the question as to whether in fact community pharmacy is classed as a speciality or whether there is a general board to oversee the practice levels in “general” areas such as community pharmacy and general medicine in hospital pharmacy.

Governance
The report of the governance group recommends that the NPB should use the term “Great Britain” in case the Pharmaceutical Society of Northern Ireland (PSNI) decide to join.

They suggest that there should be an “assembly” (instead of a council) for the NPB with national boards and an executive forum (officers and senior staff). There should be a president elected from the assembly and two vice chancellors – one senior and one junior – for succession planning.

The report also carries recommendations on assembly size, composition and election. It is suggested that, until the permanent assembly of the NPB is established, a “shadow assembly” is put in place, made up of the chair and vice chancellor of national bodies, and six members of the current Transcom. A chair should be appointed by the current Transcom chair, and this “shadow assembly” will remain in place until the charter changes come into force. Issues such as the term “Royal” in the new title, and the inclusion of technicians are also considered.

Reports of other working groups
The research group state that research should be integral to the new NPB and the membership services group have voiced support for the proposal to adapt the branch network for the future using academic institutions. Further thoughts come from the leadership group, who discuss engagement, motivation, communication and support, with leadership in the centre.

Finally, the membership group has once again come under fire, with letters appearing in the Pharmaceutical Journal (PJ) about their decisions.

These include those on pharmaceutical scientists (whose work underpins much of what a pharmacist does when dispensing a drug to a patient) and non-pharmacist academics (who play a role just as significant as their pharmacist colleagues in the development of future generations of pharmacists). Pharmaceutical scientist members of the new professional body are defined as “individuals qualified to degree level, working in professions allied to pharmacy”.

The Council of University Heads of Schools of Pharmacy (CUHOP) have led an interesting debate, which is currently being played out in the columns of the PJ. Some have suggested that there should be a “Faculty of education and science”, but others disagree and state that these professionals should not be full members of the NPB.

The final prospectus
The Transcom committee is currently drawing up the prospectus which will provide a blueprint for the dissolution of the RPSGB and the creation of the NPB. Some, inevitably, will support as little change as possible.

The answers to questions such as “What is a professional body for?” and “How is it different from what we have now?” will need to be provided to the current RPSGB membership to get the engagement required, especially from community pharmacy colleagues, in order for the new body to be successful.

No one should underestimate what is at stake if pharmacists don’t accept that they will be the core of the new body and yet able to benefit from the skills of others, as described in the proposals from the Transcom reports.

Congratulations must be given to those who have been involved with the work so far.

We await developments in the next few weeks, as final agreements will be made by Transcom at their meeting on 22 October. The prospectus will then be presented to the RPSGB council for consideration at its meeting on 5 November.

Now that is a significant date for the diary – in more ways than one!

Gill Hawksworth
RPSGB past president

Transcom



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