Principal pharmacist for the Ladywell Unit within the South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust.
People with serious mental illnesses (SMI) live on average 15-20 years less than the general population, partly due to physical health comorbidities. Improving the physical health knowledge of mental health pharmacists could assist in reducing the mortality gap in people with SMI. We describe the development and implementation of educational materials for mental health pharmacists at a large UK mental health trust.
Physical health training needs were identified using a survey with pharmacists. We implemented (1) monthly, educational webinars covering different physical health topics, and (2) specific physical health guidelines, circulated to all mental health trust pharmacists. Questionnaires and interviews were undertaken with pharmacists to evaluate impact and implementation.
106 individual staff attended the webinars. Common themes from the questionnaire (n=15) and interviews (n=8) were that the webinars were ‘good-refreshers’, concise and provided appropriate level, pharmacy specific information. Common barriers for webinar attendance were high workload and other work commitments. 50% of the interviewed pharmacists were not aware of the guidelines and only two pharmacists had read them. The implementation evaluation further revealed that the co-design approach with pharmacists enabled interprofessional relationships (ie acute and mental health pharmacists) and tailoring of educational content. Trust-wide pharmacy leadership buy-in and administrative support also boosted implementation.
These barriers reflect the challenges of developing interventions in a pressurised hospital setting. To overcome these barriers, co-designing with expert pharmacists is key. Regular meetings, establishing role clarity and accountability, building a relationship with the acute hospital pharmacy team, and dedicated funding enabled this.
Continual education for clinicians is key to ensuring service users experience the best available care including physical healthcare expertise. To sustain the interventions, dedicated administrative and leadership resource is required to establish accountability and responsibility. We also identified the need to publicise implementations and improve access to resources.