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Scotland’s first consultant pharmacist appointed to support cancer outcomes and survival

Scotland’s first consultant pharmacist has been appointed by NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde to provide clinical leadership and support the West of Scotland Cancer Network.

Jennifer Laskey, who has been lead pharmacist for the network since January 2023, will work to ensure patients across community, primary and acute settings have access to the highest quality care by focusing on driving improvement outcomes and survival rates.

Credentialed as a consultant pharmacist with the Royal Pharmaceutical Society in March 2022, Ms Laskey’s new appointment has now seen her post title updated to consultant pharmacist, West of Scotland Cancer Network.

This was in response to the publication of ‘Guidance on the appointment of Directors of Pharmacy, Senior Pharmacists and Consultant Pharmacists in Health Boards’ by the Scottish Government in January 2024.

To be eligible to use the consultant pharmacist title, pharmacists must be credentialed by the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) and be working in an RPS-approved consultant post, to ensure standardisation across the UK for patients and the system.

Credentialing is based on a rigorous portfolio assessment that demonstrates cross-boundary working and leadership across four pillars: clinical practice, leadership and management, education, and research.

Speaking about her new position, Ms Laskey said: ‘To be appointed as the first consultant pharmacist in Scotland is a highly significant landmark for the pharmacy profession. My main priorities are around enabling pharmacy teams to support cancer patients and improve outcomes.

‘Aligning to the ambitions set out in the Scottish Government ‘Cancer action Plan 2023 to 2026’, [as consultant pharmacist] I will be working with pharmacy teams across the West of Scotland in key areas such as prevention and early diagnosis and in reviewing models of service delivery for systemic anti-cancer treatment (SACT).

‘SACT activity is rapidly increasing and it is important that we are able to fully utilise the collective expertise of the pharmacy workforce across all care settings to support patients living with a cancer diagnosis.’

Ms Laskey added that as cancer affects one in two patients in Scotland and is increasingly prevalent, ‘it is therefore important that pharmacy teams have the necessary skills and confidence to support patients through their cancer journey whether that be through the provision of highly specialised care in a cancer unit/centre or supporting patients in the community experiencing side effects of their SACT.’

Chief pharmaceutical officer for Scotland Alison Strath commented that while cancer survival rates are improving in Scotland, it remains one of the country’s single biggest health challenges and therefore building care and treatment around patients’ specific needs and preferences is a priority. And the consultant pharmacist role will support this.

She said: ‘Our vision for cancer in Scotland in 10 years’ time is that more cancers are prevented, and our compassionate and consistent cancer service provides excellent treatment and support throughout the cancer journey and improves outcomes and survival for people with cancer.

‘Having a consultant pharmacist in cancer provides the clinical leadership to influence practice at local, regional, and national level to the benefit of patients now, and in the future.

‘More generally, I envisage NHS consultant pharmacists as the clinical leaders in the profession delivering care and driving change across the healthcare system.’

Indeed, the ambition is for this consultant pharmacist appointment to be the first of many, and Ms Strath said that going forwards ‘all NHS consultant pharmacist posts in Scotland will be determined and agreed nationally’.

She added: ‘Priorities for the introduction of these roles will be based on nationally identified areas of clinical need, such as vascular disease, palliative care, frailty, mental health and infectious diseases, as well as areas identified by individual Health Boards. For example, you can envisage some Health Boards having an interest in remote and rural healthcare.’

In January, the RPS launched its vision for consultant pharmacists, which sets out a multifaceted approach under five strategic pillars to help to ensure consultant pharmacists are an integral part of the pharmacy and wider healthcare team in all sectors of the UK by 2030.

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