Perhaps it is because of my Scottish heritage, but I am continually dawn to the Scottish business model for community pharmacy, funded and developed in a genuine partnership between community pharmacists and government.
One of its lesser publicised components is the funding of “Practitioner Champions”.
It’s not a lot of money (£300,000 funding for this year), but you don’t need a lot of “thought leader champions” to drive a process that is both consultative and educative.
In Scotland, the champions are recruited from practising pharmacists who have qualities of experience and insight in delivering the NHS community pharmacy contracts.
But it’s a little more than NHS defined services.
Champions have skills in preparing the groundwork to develop and train practice pharmacists and their team into an organisational framework that can actually deliver services appropriately.
This requires knowledge in the design of a practice infrastructure, its team workflows and various methods of patient engagement and proven systems for the patient interview process.
It requires the development and training of practice managers, registrars and team leaders to create cohesion coupled with a pride in delighting pharmacy patients and generating high levels of patient satisfaction.
A knowledge base for the marketing of pharmacy practices is also required so that a process of patient recruitment becomes a continuous and integrated function, harmonising with all of the other business flows within a community pharmacy.
Central to a marketing program for a community pharmacy practice is a patient registration process that becomes a major component of the formal patient record, that is developed to a standard that can be absorbed into a national electronic health record that can enhance the total patient record, providing value for the patients and other contributing health practitioners.
Once the pharmacy infrastructure is generated to a functioning level the pharmacy practice is ready to implement assignments that are in the form of specific clinical services, and systems to measure outcomes.
For Scotland, the program in 2018 that will be implemented through “champions” involves a focus on supporting community pharmacists and their teams to undertake care bundle activities, focusing on the non-steroidal anti inflammatory drug (NSAID) assessment tool, and on helping pharmacists to put in place quality improvement practices on near misses and patient safety incidents.
The reporting of incidents is set to become a major resource throughout the entire UK countries as legislation is currently being introduced to decriminalise pharmacist “errors” provided they are isolated and not part of a recurring pattern.
This will relieve pharmacist legal concerns and eventually lead to a central database containing a full range of incident types.
The incident database will also generate further work for “champions” through the analysis of incidents and the creation of systems to prevent incidents from happening.
Pharmacy “champions” will also be tasked with helping NHS Education for Scotland (NES) and undertake a community pharmacy workforce survey early next year by collecting data from the independent community pharmacies within their specific Board area.
Pharmacists who elect to become champions generally come with a high level of motivation and personal qualities that qualify them as leaders, particularly in the area of thought leadership.
Other personal qualities that they may arrive with are an actively curious mind and a “can do” attitude.
They would generally embrace innovation and be actively anticipating external disruption and planning to harness the positive components of disruption.
From a government perspective, pharmacist champions can create “more bang for a buck” and would create a confident climate for progressive government investment in such activities.
From a community pharmacy perspective, “champions” represent a knowledge base and an enhancement of research processes for continual development of pharmacy practice, at an economical cost.
And it is possible to differentiate community pharmacy practices to deliver a common government-driven program with diversity.
This is where the strengths in marketing and patient recruitment systems become important – limited only by imagination skills.
Pharmacist “champions” are not a reality in Australia, even though they already exist. They simply don’t have recognition.
Government appears to be modelling Australian community pharmacy using elements of the Scottish model, so it should not be a too difficult proposition for existing “champions” to increase their profile by creating or working through an existing umbrella structure, to represent their interests and actively lobby government to fund a program similar to that of Scotland.
And because numbers are likely to be small, there would be a need to have strong partners to help in the political process.
That partner could be the Australian Association of Consultant Pharmacy, and because pharmacy leader attitudes have changed since its formation, it could in itself become a lobby group of “champions”.
All that would be needed is a constitutional change to allow member “champions” to be able to vote and have a degree of control over their own future direction, plus a redesign of accreditation processes that are more relevant to a broader practice approach.
Such an organisation with PGA and PSA as major shareholders could evolve and create a driving force to lead community pharmacy into a clinical future that would bring optimism and hope to a profession currently in the doldrums.
It’s worth a thought.