The project has already begun in the Department of Pharmacy & Pharmacology at the University of Bath. The donor, Sigma Pharmaceuticals plc through Dr Bharat Shah, is keen to draw together the various sectors of the profession to present a clear and cogent message to policy-makers. This work will devise and present a vision for the development of the community pharmacy sector as it battles to respond to recent funding cuts and unpopular reforms.
Under the scholarship, opinions will be gathered from all relevant stakeholders, including patients, pharmacists, other health professionals, businesses and commissioners. There will also be a review of recent developments in community pharmacy policy and an examination of case studies of existing innovative pharmacy businesses.
The scholarship is being supervised by Dr Matthew Jones (Lecturer in Pharmacy Practice) and Professor Margaret Watson (Professor of Health Services Research) both from the Department of Pharmacy & Pharmacology, and Dr Piotr Ozieranski, an expert in health policy and lecturer in the University's Department of Social & Policy Sciences.
The last 18 months have been a turbulent time for the community pharmacy sector in England, with unpopular reforms and £170m Government funding cuts widely expected to lead to closure of pharmacies. However, the wide array of opinions within the pharmacy profession on how medicines should be supplied, and what work community pharmacists should do, means that policy-makers have not received a consistent vision for the development of the sector.
Dr Shah, an alumnus from the University, said: “Our involvement in this timely project resonates well with the general feelings and anxiety experienced throughout the pharmaceutical industry. It is my personal ambition to see the culmination of three years of solid, evidence-based research that will present an irrefutable case to our policy-makers who seem at liberty to take decisions without consultation with the professionals. I am also hopeful that the findings will bolster the independent pharmacy sector and add a measure of security for the future.”
Dr Jones said: “Through this work, we aim to identify areas where Government policy and stakeholder views align with existing examples of innovative and successful community pharmacy businesses. For example, such areas of consensus might include the provision of minor ailments services, management of chronic conditions, or a diversification of business models. These can then be used to develop a vision for the future of the sector. As well as contributing to the evidence base for community pharmacy, this scholarship will also provide the scholar, Ms Evina Paloumpi (a pharmacist), with in-depth research training. She will thus be equipped to contribute further to the development of the profession throughout her future career.”
Ms Paloumpi said: “It has long been recognised that community pharmacy is a highly valued but underutilised resource. At times of financial austerity, uncertainty and growing population demands, pharmacy has a lot to offer. NHS plans for integrating care are continuously developing and community pharmacy must ensure it is actively involved. My research aims to facilitate responses to current challenges and identify some realistic next steps for the future.”
The findings of the project will be made public when the research has been completed in 2020.