This site is intended for health professionals only

RPS welcomes recent progress in pharmacy practice but highlights further opportunity

‘Steady progress’ has been made across different pharmacy settings in the 12 months since the launch of the ‘10-year Vision for Pharmacy Professional Practice’, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) has said.

In its new ‘One Year On’ report, the RPS noted a number of positive policy developments that it said were ‘significant and should be celebrated’, such as the publication of the NHS Long Term Workforce Plan and positive steps towards the ambitions set out in the 2016 Carter Review.

It also identified opportunities for further progress as it reflected on each of the six key themes in the Vision, which the RPS published in collaboration with The King’s Fund in 2023.

When it came to hospital pharmacy in particular, the RPS highlighted the continuation of the Hospital Pharmacy Transformation programme and positive developments relating to aseptic services.

‘Investment in aseptic services and development of hub sites has made steady progress to allow ‘spades in the ground’ in 2024,’ the report said.

And it is hoped that the Government’s public consultation on enabling supervision of pharmacy aseptic services by pharmacy technicians will further support this ambition.

However, the report also highlighted that aseptics – which it called the ‘unsung sector of practice’ – is facing challenges around recruitment and increasing capacity to meet demand.

Support from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency to quickly implement innovations is also required, it added.

Championing integrated working

In its new report, the RPS also celebrated the development of more integrated working between hospital, primary care and community pharmacy to help support early discharge, the safe transfer of care and the reduction of unnecessary readmissions due to medicines.

The Discharge Medicines Service (DMS) continues to refer over 11,000 patients a month to community pharmacy for review of their medications on leaving hospital, it said.

However, it also noted that there is ‘untapped potential’ in the DMS service to reduce hospital readmissions.

‘If implementation was increased to be to the level of the leading areas, then the benefits could increase fivefold,’ it added.

Virtual wards were highlighted as another example of untapped potential due to a lack of pharmacy representation in their setup, which ‘risked undermining good governance of medicines in virtual wards’.

In fact, ‘medicines are a key part of Hospital at Home services and the RPS interim standards for virtual wards published in October 2023 state that a senior pharmacy lead must be assigned to the service from the very beginning to design, implement and maintain pharmacy services’, it said.

Pharmacy challenges and workforce pressures

Insufficient interoperability between acute trusts and both community pharmacy and general practice was also flagged by the RPS as an area for improvement.

And while some digital integrations had been successfully implemented in the past year, such as the rollout of electronic prescribing and medicines administration (ePMA) systems in some trusts, there is still significant variation, with 20% of providers yet to implement ePMA.

Pressures on the workforce was a key theme running throughout the report, resulting from medicines shortages, increased demand and backlogs, and workforce shortages.

These have ‘inhibited development of services as quickly as anticipated’, the RPS said, adding that workforce shortages in particular presented ‘a significant challenge in the pharmacy sector, across all areas of practice’, and that this had led to ‘severe difficulties for numerous providers’.

Commenting on the ‘One Year On’ report, Tase Oputu, chair of the RPS English Pharmacy Board, said: ‘There has been some fantastic work across the profession, as well as collaboration with pharmacy organisations, professional bodies and others to drive this forward.’

However, she warned: ‘Continued pressures on the workforce and the need for sustainable funding mean there is still more to do to transform, unlock and enable the full breadth of opportunities for pharmacy teams.’

RPS director for England James Davies added: ‘We have made some positive progress in 2023, but there is still much to be done across all sectors of practice to help make this vision a reality for patients.’

In January 2024, the RPS launched its manifesto outlining its key pharmacy priorities ahead of the upcoming UK general election.

Be in the know
Subscribe to Hospital Pharmacy Europe newsletter and magazine