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Clinical pharmacology in the NHS

Recognising the value of clinical pharmacology & therapeutics

On the 3 November 2014 the British Pharmacological Society launched A Prescription for the NHS: Recognising the value of clinical pharmacology and therapeutics.

Lord Winston reading report. jpgThe report was launched by Lord Robert Winston in the House of Lords and called for an increase in the number of clinical pharmacologists across the four UK nations. The report was accompanied by a YouTube video, and the conclusion generated a lot of media interest and support from partner organizations. The Society will be working hard to support further dissemination across the NHS in the coming months.

The value of clinical pharmacology & therapeutics

Clinical pharmacology and therapeutics (CPT) is the only medical specialty focussing on the safe, effective and economic use of medicines. CPT makes a major contribution to the health and wealth of the nation. It improves patients’ lives by developing new medicines, by ensuring they are used safely and effectively, and by providing general and specialist medical services
There are six areas in which clinical pharmacologists make a particularly valuable contribution to the NHS:

  1. Advising on medicines policy and cost-effective management, saving the NHS £10 for every £1 invested
  2. Bringing innovation to the NHS through experimental medicine by designing early phase clinical trials and establishing NHS clinical research facilities
  3. Working with industry to provide tomorrow’s medicines and grow the UK’s economy: CPT consultants support the development of innovative, new medicines in the life sciences sector
  4. Leading clinical toxicology services and the National Poisons Information Service.
  5. Teaching new doctors to prescribe medicines safely and effectively
  6. Providing both specialist and enhanced generalist care as they are often also accredited in general internal medicine. Their expertise prevents the avoidable harm associated with adverse drug reactions 

The four health systems across the UK are facing similar long term challenges of providing safe, equitable, high-quality patient care with restricted budgets. CPT can play a vital role is rising to these challenges; but it is a small specialty and action is needed to support the speciality to do more.

What are the Society’s recommendations?

  •  Ensure that NHS organisations across the UK have equitable access to CPT consultants’ expertise.
  • Commit to increasing the size of the CPT consultant workforce to 150 full-time equivalents by 2025, accompanied by an increase in the number of specialist registrar training posts.
  • Develop a joint strategy to achieve this increase, including the provision of enhanced undergraduate and postgraduate education and training.
  • And, provide a clear career route for clinical pharmacologists, with associated career support and development.

Response to the campaign

The Society's campaign has received considerable media attention and a number of supportive responses:
CPT and the NHS news coverage “The importance of CPT as a specialty cannot be under-estimated. The ever increasing number of new drugs used to improve patient care, together with the potential harm that can be done if they are not used effectively, mean we need to invest in developing a skilled workforce to help patients and other doctors get the maximum benefits of our main weapons against disease.” 
Dr Andrew Goddard,  Registrar,  Royal College of Physicians
“The ABPI supports the British Pharmacological Society’s call for an increase in the number of clinical pharmacologists across the UK in its report launched today. Clinical pharmacologists in universities and NHS work with industry and support the UK’s life sciences sector to enhance the development of innovative new medicines and improve the use of current medicines for the benefit of patients and this is to be welcomed.
“The report recognises the importance of evidence and patients individual needs which we welcome and support. This reflects the principles of medicines optimisation - patients should be at the centre of decisions about their care, and that shared decision making should be based on the best available evidence, taking account of the patient’s individual needs, preferences and values – and it is important that all of the work carried out by clinical pharmacologists are underpinned by these principles."

Dr Bina Rawal,  Director of Research, Medical and Innovation, Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry
Clinical pharmacologists play a vital role across the NHS, ensuring medicines are used to safely and efficiently improve patient outcomes. We welcome today’s report which recognises the ever evolving environment of clinical pharmacology and the need to strengthen the workforce in this field to provide the NHS and patients with the best possible results.
“The RCPE has been leading the Single Prescription and Administration Record for Scotland (SPARS) project which aims to improve patient safety in relation to prescribed medicines, and today’s BPS report reinforces the importance of this issue and the work that needs to be done to fully realise the benefits of clinical pharmacology to the NHS.”

Professor Derek Bell, President, Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh