Vice Chair, BOPA
Traditionally, the role of cancer pharmacists focused on prescription verification (the process of checking a prescription for appropriateness and accuracy) and the compounding of cancer medicines. Over the years, the role has become more clinical.
Cancer pharmacists now play an integral role in the multidisciplinary team, advising on all aspects of medicines use in cancer care. Since 2003, pharmacists have been able to train as non-medical prescribers, and the number of pharmacists prescribing within the speciality has grown — providing pharmacist-led and multi-professional clinics to review and optimise individual patients’ treatment.
Pharmacists expand to patient care and clinical leadership
Pharmacy professionals are at the forefront of service improvement, technological innovation and research. Some pharmacists and pharmacy technicians improve patient care by facilitating ‘closer to home’ treatment services such as homecare and self-administration schemes.
Others have developed expertise in genomics or advanced technology medicinal products such as CAR-T cells and gene therapy. In 2005, consultant pharmacist roles were introduced, designed to deliver clinical leadership, promote research and collaborate at a national level to improve practice. There are 161 consultant pharmacists in the UK; only 12 specialise in oncology, but the number is increasing each year.
Pharmacy professionals are at the forefront of service improvement, technological innovation and research.
Pharmacists engage in genomic testing for cancer
One of the biggest developments in recent years has been the incorporation of genomic testing into routine cancer care. In England, the NHS genomic medicine service has employed pharmacists to act as regional leads to advise on the use of genomic testing to improve the safety and efficacy of cancer treatments.
Several genetic tests are now routinely used to identify which patients are likely to benefit from specific treatments and to identify those at greater risk of side effects. Cancer pharmacists can advise on the choice of treatment and any necessary dose modifications required based on the results of these tests.
Pharmacy technicians in medicine management
The pharmacy technician role is also evolving. Traditionally a supporting role, they now take the lead in medicines preparation, medicines management and patient counselling, with some developing extended roles such as prescription verification and medicines administration.
Backed up by a team of pharmacy assistants and other support staff, they ensure a safe supply of medicines to patients in all areas of the hospital. The increasing clinical roles of pharmacists and pharmacy technicians could contribute to improved patient care across the UK.