Clinical pharmacologists are Future Doctors

The Society welcomes Health Education England’s “Future Doctor” report, which sets out how changes to medical training are needed in order to give patients the best care. The report recognises the need for investment in generalist care – a key feature of training in clinical pharmacology and therapeutics.
Professor Sir Munir Pirmohamed, the Society’s President, said:

It’s great to see the report recognise the value of generalist skills across the medical workforce – not at the expense of specialist skills, but to help patients get the best treatment. Clinical pharmacologists are ‘expert generalists’, using their knowledge of how medicines work and affect the body to provide integrated assessment and care.
The NHS Long-Term Plan recognises the growing challenge of multimorbidity: many patients present with multiple conditions now and this is only going to increase. This is associated with a polypharmacy burden, whereby patients are also taking multiple medicines. Doctors of the future must know how best to treat this group of patients. The report rightly recognises the value of multi-professional pathways, especially for long-term conditions – having a clinical pharmacologist on the team can help reduce inappropriate polypharmacy and prevent adverse drug reactions. This is better for patients and can help the NHS save money too.
Clinical pharmacologists have led on the national Prescribing Safety Assessment (PSA), which now has to be passed by all newly-qualified doctors at entry to foundation training. This means they are well-placed to support the whole NHS workforce to be skilled in the use of medicines.
Health Education England also sees the Future Doctor as one who drives research and innovation; clinical pharmacologists are research leaders - and can help the NHS embed research into care. For example, Professor Martin Landray and colleagues reached large numbers of patients across the UK in the RECOVERY trial – identifying dexamethasone as an effective treatment for COVID-19.
Clinical pharmacology has so much to offer, but making the most of this offer requires investment in the specialty. Since clinical pharmacology is small, it can be hard for students and doctors to find it. The Society is working hard to promote career pathways, and we hope that parallel investments at a training, Trust and national level will help the NHS realise the potential of clinical pharmacology.
The report’s vision is that "Access to generalists in primary and secondary care will prevent patients from seeing multiple specialists, which costs patient time and risks fragmented care, duplication and waste. All Future Doctors will therefore need broader training, focused on the management of multimorbidity.

The report highlights key themes describing how doctors will work in the future:
  1. Patient-Doctor Partnership
    • Shared decision making, with the patient firmly front and centre
  2. The Extensivist and Generalist
    • Confidence in a greater breadth of practice, with a strong base of generalist skills
  3. Leadership, Followership and Team Working
    • Compassionate and collaborative leadership and effective teamworking.
  4. The Transformed Multi-professional Team
    • Culture where each member of the multi-professional team is acknowledged, respected, valued and empowered to accept shared responsibility
  5. Population Health and Sustainable Healthcare
    • Embedded in their local community, to better understand population needs
  6. Adoption of Technology
    • Technology as an enabler for change in clinical care and education
  7. Work-life Balance and Flexibility Throughout a Career
    • Flexibility and life-long learning
  8. Driving research and innovation
    • Driving research and supporting patients to make informed choices around engaging in research.
The Society is continuing to champion clinical pharmacology in our policy and education work. We are also working with Health Education England, our partner in the Clinical Pharmacology Alliance, to ensure that clinical pharmacology continues to benefit patients, the NHS, and Future Doctors.
Read more on the value of clinical pharmacology here.

Published: 02 Sep 2020 in Society news