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INTERVIEW


Committed to CONTINUOUS IMPROVEMENT


Valerie Watts, Chief Executive of the Health and Social Care Board, speaks to Pharmacy in Focus about her first year in post and the role of pharmacy and Integrated Care Partnerships in taking forward the reform agenda.


V


alerie Watts has now been in post over a year. Originally a County Down native, Ms Watts


returned to Northern Ireland taking the helm of the regional commissioning body, having spent the past 30 years in local government - most recently as Chief Executive of Aberdeen City Council.


Taking up her role in July last year, Ms Watts inherited an unprecedented situation. Not only was the Executive budget for the financial year beginning 1 April 2014 yet to be agreed, the Health and Social Care Board faced a £160 million shortfall in meeting the DHSSPS Commissioning Plan Direction for 2014/15.


The first few months involved her in oversight of Trust contingency plans and the implementation of savings plans to prioritise spending and minimise impacts on services.


While last year’s October monitoring round met the shortfall half way with an £80 million injection of funding, the remaining deficit coupled with further budgetary uncertainty for 2015/16 has meant the squeeze is rarely far from the mind of anyone involved in delivering health and social care services.


Ms Watts admits that the ongoing financial pressure within the system “remains challenging” but says the primary focus should always be on “effectively managing the £4 billion we do have”. The role of pharmacy, Ms Watts says, remains a “critical and central pillar” to supporting the ongoing reform agenda and improving services and care pathways:


“Transforming Your Care identified many areas the pharmacy profession could contribute to and, in particular, I recognise the tremendous added value that community pharmacies bring to helping patients with their medicines and providing important health promotion messages as part of their day to day service. I’m pleased to see that the recently updated ‘Making it


10 pharmacyinfocus.co.uk


Better through Pharmacy in the Community’ advances the strategic direction and emphasises better use of pharmaceutical skills in a clinical way.


“It’s clear to me that community pharmacies throughout Northern Ireland have a significant cohort of highly trained professionals that could be deployed in more ways that would make a real impact on improving the health and wellbeing of the population. A key example of success being the significant level of smoking cessation services already commissioned in community pharmacy. We’ve also seen some exciting new pilots by ICPs including a pharmacy based prescribing clinic to help patients manage their long term conditions, led by Craigavon/ Banbridge ICP Chair and Pharmacist lead Raymond Anderson and delivered in partnership with three local GP practices.”


Another priority during Ms Watts’ first year has been the completion of an ‘internal commissioning stocktake’ which included input from staff and stakeholders across the HSCB, including those involved in ICPs:


“I concluded even in the very early


days of my time in post that I wanted to review how the Board commissions services. My approach is very much a focus on continuous improvement. It’s been six years since the regional commissioning model was put in place and four years since Transforming Your Care was published. While TYC remains the underpinning philosophy of what we do, how we do it is another matter and it’s important to take stock of what works well and what can we do better. The feedback has demonstrated that there are many strengths to build upon, but also areas for improvement which I take very seriously and I am committed to acting upon in the coming months. This will also feed into the wider Review of Commissioning being led by the Department, and fits within the context of the Donaldson report recommendations which I welcomed.”


“It’s clear to me that community pharmacies throughout Northern Ireland have a significant cohort of highly trained professionals that could be deployed in more ways. That would make a real impact on improving the health and wellbeing of the population”


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