Enhancing Skill Mix in Community Pharmacies

Enhancing skill-mix in community pharmacies: understanding barriers and proposing solutions’

Professor Alison Bullock, Cardiff University

The role of community pharmacists is changing. They are developing more collaborative partnerships with patients, GPs and other professionals, whilst maintaining the traditional dispensing role.  However this extended role has implications for workload and the distribution of tasks amongst the team of people who work in the community pharmacy. The change raises important questions about the best mix of skills within a community pharmacy, what could be delegated to pharmacy technicians and other staff, and what are the barriers to delegation.  There is very little research on skill-mix in community pharmacy. This project sets out to identify barriers to developing the role and responsibilities of pharmacy technicians and other members of the community pharmacy team and provide example of how barriers have been successfully overcome.

With input from an Advisory Group, the project will be undertaken by the research team and collaborators in five stages.  The first stage is a scoping exercise. We will conduct a targeted literature and policy review and hold discussions with relevant groups to identify specific issues that need to be addressed in stage 2 of the project – the survey.  This online survey will collect input from 2000 community pharmacists in Great Britain and will explore their views and understanding of the skills, competencies, responsibilities and accountabilities of different members of the community pharmacy team.  It will explore the barriers and potential solutions to skill-mix within the community pharmacy.  Pharmacists will be made aware of the survey through social media, publication in specific pharmacy media and distributed via the networks of project collaborators.  In the third stage of the project, six community pharmacies will be identified as case studies, to provide insight to the benefits of enhanced skill-mix within a community pharmacy and how barriers have been overcome. The practices will be identified through the Advisory Group and survey results (stage 2).  Two Action Learning Sets (ALS) will be established in the fourth stage. In these ALSs, pharmacists will meet with other like-minded peers in their area, who are interested in developing skill-mix within community pharmacy.  In the fifth stage the results of the project will be presented to relevant stakeholders to finalise the report’s recommendations, a final report will be published and appropriate journal publications prepared.

The way the study has been designed means that the findings can be used during the life of the project and also disseminated wider once the project has finished.  The findings from the survey and case studies will feed into the ALSs, thus providing early opportunities for practice improvement based upon the project’s emergent findings.  The final report and executive summary, along with a set of presentation slides for relevant personnel, will be distributed to relevant bodies.  A “market report” for practitioners, focused on information to help them plan changes to the skill-mix in their practice will also be developed.