The changing roles of pharmacists and pharmacy technicians will make the UK ‘a global leader in pharmacy professional practice’, the chief pharmaceutical officer (CPhO) for England has said.

With data and prescribing skills and advances such as pharmacogenomics, pharmacists are ‘well placed’ to play a key role in reducing overprescribing, optimising medicine costs and increasing patient adherence, Mr Webb added.

But multidisciplinary teams ‘need to work cohesively’, he said at the NHS Confed Expo conference in Manchester last week.

'Clearly pharmacists, doctors and all members of our clinical teams need to work together in both primary and secondary care to develop future prescribing practices that prevent ill health and avoid hospital admissions,' he said.

He highlighted chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty's work on the challenges of an ageing population, with increased multimorbidity,  polypharmacy and 'risks of overtreatment', and the need to make the most of skills within a multidisciplinary team, including those of pharmacists and pharmacy technicians.

Mr Webb said that the requisite policy frameworks 'are in place', but that ‘concerted action’ was needed 'to educate teams, and so prevent the over-use of multiple medicines'.

'Pharmacists are well placed to play an important role in NHS teams, particularly as we continue to experience change at an unprecedented rate in healthcare,' he added.

'The cutting edge of innovation and complexity in pharmacotherapy, data and technology, including genomics and precision medicine, has an impact on the delivery of healthcare that plays to the strength of the pharmacy skill set and training.

'But at the same time, the climate of significant financial pressure also requires our roles to be about optimisation of prescribing and the way that people use their medicines.

'This will not be successful if it's just about pharmacy professionals talking to each other.

'We need to work cohesively as multi-professional teams, and ensure our concern is first and foremost about benefit to patients and the public.'

He said the approach was backed by Professor Sir Stephen Powis, NHS England medical director, who, along with the CPhO and NHS prescribing director Tony Avery, had been visiting general practices 'to look at some of the best practice initiatives in those settings'.

Mr Webb added: 'Reform of pharmacist initial education and training and the ability of pharmacy technicians to now work under patient group directions will make us a global leader in pharmacy professional practice and will enable the NHS to make the most of our workforce across secondary care and primary care networks, and, in quick succession, community pharmacy too.

Pharmacist prescribing 'will allow us to significantly improve the care for people with long term conditions, support the wider clinical team, and provide improved opportunities for deprescribing', he said.

And he highlighted that 'skills in reviewing data' had also become 'increasingly important over the past few years and are now crucial to pharmacy professional practice'.

'These are going to be very important this year in delivering on the NHS's current priorities,' Mr Webb added.

'It's a very exciting time to be working in this arena and I'm proud that a highly skilled pharmacy workforce is able to work with you as we navigate these developments together,' he told delegates at the NHS Confed Expo conference.

‘If we learnt nothing else from the pandemic it was teamwork’

The medical director and chief nursing officer for NHS England also advocated for pharmacy representation and multi-disciplinary teamwork ‘at all levels’ during a keynote speech at the conference.

With pharmacists delivering more services as part of primary care and prevention strategies, Mr Powis said ‘as we expand what we do into other settings such as pharmacies… it’s really important that we have strong leaders in those areas’.

He said added that leaders for the profession within the NHS such as the CPhO, as well as leaders for other professions such as dentistry, were ‘really working hard to ensure that they support local leaders, and that those local leaders are not just there but they are impactful and they have a seat at the table’.

‘If we learnt nothing else from the pandemic it was about teamwork’, added chief nursing officer Dame Ruth May, highlighting the importance of working as a multi-disciplinary team ‘at all levels’.