The integration of pharmacy professionals across health and care systems needs to be achieved ‘at scale’ as services are re-built to address health inequalities exposed by the Covid pandemic and respond to backlogs in care, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) and The King’s Fund have said in a report, launched today.

There is an opportunity to ‘unlock’ the potential of pharmacy through a ‘whole system approach’ through Integrated Care Systems (ICSs), said Thorrun Govind, chair for RPS in England.

‘Now is the time to step up the pace and scale of this integration, to ensure that all members of the pharmacy team are using their skills and knowledge to the maximum for the benefit of people across the breadth of England,’ she said.

The report, ’A vision for pharmacy professional practice in England’, was commissioned by the English Pharmacy Board in partnership with The King’s Fund following a consultation with pharmacists, pharmacy technicians and other stakeholders.

It calls for a comprehensive pharmacy workforce strategy, improved use of data and research to drive better patient outcomes, and ‘strong skilful leadership and collaboration’ to inform professional practice.

The document outlines ‘key ambitions for the future of pharmacy in England over the next decade’, said the RPS, highlighting ways that pharmacy teams can support better patient care and address key challenges.

Chair of the project, the chief executive of The King’s Fund Richard Murray, said that pharmacy leaders must take ‘a collaborative approach to leadership as they increasingly work across health and care systems’.

He said: ‘The intense pressure on health and care services, the move towards more joined-up care, and the experience of adapting at pace during the pandemic all create an opportunity to think afresh about pharmacy professional practise in England.

‘There is significant potential for pharmacy teams to deliver person-centred care that enhances patient experience and access to care… The Vision sets out an exciting future for pharmacy; now the hard work of making a reality must begin.’

Chief pharmaceutical officer for England David Webb spoke of significant changes ‘that will impact on pharmacists and pharmacy technicians now and in the future’.

He said: ‘Effective and authoritative professional leadership and appropriate structures for collaboration will help us make a real difference to the future for the pharmacy professions and to the health outcomes for patients and local communities.’

Professor Aruna Garcea, chair of Primary Care Network Advisory Group, NHS Confederation, welcomed the plan, saying: ‘We are passionate about the role pharmacy colleagues play in realising this vision and are ambitious about embedding their role within wider primary care. The task we now have is to support stakeholders to implement this plan.’

Vice-president of the Association of Pharmacy Technicians UK (APTUK), Nicola Stockmann, also welcomed the opportunity to have taken part in the project: ‘The Vision has been created with the intention of reducing health inequalities, widening access to new and developing pharmacy services and championing the ever-expanding remit and scope of autonomous practice for registered pharmacy professionals.’

In October, the RPS argued that it should represent both pharmacists and pharmacy technicians to ‘achieve a more unified approach to pharmacy leadership’.