The Scottish Pharmacy Alliance convenes to reduce drug deaths

Former Chair of the Drug Deaths Taskforce for Scotland Professor Catriona Matheson, University of Stirling and Managing Director of Pharmacy in Practice Johnathan Laird have partnered to convene the inaugural Scottish Pharmacy Alliance meeting to reduce drug-related harms and deaths in Scotland.

The aim of this initiative is to bring together stakeholders in the pharmacy profession across Scotland to explore how to drive change and improve health with the ultimate objective of reducing deaths.

In true Scottish pharmacy form, a broad range of stakeholders from across multiple sectors of the profession have agreed to come together to work towards a consensus on how to take the agenda forward. The group includes topic specialists, practising pharmacists and leaders from across the pharmacy profession.

Johnathan and Catriona have taken an extremely open-minded and inclusive stance when seeking to address this issue. Both have commented that collaboration, focus on purpose and exploring new ways of working is key to the success of this initiative. The hope is to encourage collaboration across traditional organisational dividing lines.

As with many other sectors, community pharmacy has played a crucial role over many years in delivering care to people who use drugs and are afflicted by all the challenges that accompany addiction to substances not least during the recent pandemic.

However, with appropriate support and funding, we hope to explore if there is more that can be done. We would like the group to explore potential new services, but also explore all aspects of how we deliver current services and care.

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society Strategy to Reduce Drug-Related Deaths was very welcome. The group will focus on supporting this and other strategy documents with a firm focus on working towards the operationalisation of some of the recommendations by the pharmacy profession.

Professor Matheson commented:

“My work on the drug death taskforce has encouraged me to see that there is genuine commitment to do the right thing by people from those working at the coalface as pharmacy staff do.  Pharmacists understand the importance of using an evidence-based approach because of their scientific training so they are an invaluable asset in the drive to reduce drug harm. 

“If the pharmacy profession can come together and demonstrate the leadership required hopefully other groups can do the same.”

Managing Director of Pharmacy in Practice Johnathan Laird said:

“Occasionally there are societal problems that require citizens to act. I feel the issue of harmful drug use in this country is one such issue. One of the privileges of being a member of the pharmacist profession is that we can choose to intervene in the public interest.

“For decades pharmacists, pharmacy technicians and pharmacy teams across Scotland have cared deeply for the most vulnerable victims of harmful substance use. Many of us will have first-hand experience and understanding of the complex consequences on individuals and families of harmful drug use. Indeed, there is scarcely a pharmacy in the land that does not support people who struggle with substance use in a range of forms.

“As pharmacists, we understand the pharmacology but day to day we also observe the impact on the individuals behind these dreadful statistics. In community pharmacy in particular we have regular meaningful interventions. I have yet to meet a pharmacist who lacks a compelling will to help make a difference to these people.

“The calibre of professionals from across multiple sectors of Scottish pharmacy who have agreed to join us for our inaugural Scottish Pharmacy Alliance meeting gives me great hope that we can reach across political boundaries and find consensus on how the pharmacy profession can come together to tackle this complex problem.”

To demonstrate commitment to the initiative Pharmacy in Practice in partnership with Wylie & Bissett is supporting this event by providing the venue for the inaugural and future meetings of the group. The organisers are giving their time for free and there is no other commercial interest.

The first meeting of the Scottish Pharmacy Alliance will happen on May 16th. Minutes of the meeting and a consensus statement will be published shortly afterwards.