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An update from the 28th Congress of the EAHP

The European Association of Hospital Pharmacy (EAHP) 28th Congress was held in Bordeaux, France this year, 20th – 22nd March. The Congress theme was “Sustainable healthcare; opportunities and strategies”, and attracted hospital pharmacists from almost every country in Europe. Congress attendees were welcomed to beautiful Bordeaux with unseasonable sunny weather, and characteristically exceptional gastronomic delights, during every break period of the 3 day conference. The EAHP scientific committee curated a fantastic programme this year, brimming with interesting and compelling sessions from a broad range of speakers.

The three keynote speeches covered a breadth of considerations when planning and executing a more environmentally sustainable healthcare system across our home countries. Pedro Facon, a Belgian public health manager, opened the conference by asking us to reengineer our healthcare systems in order to embed a sustainable approach within our “greening” of pharmacy.

On the second day, Peter Morgan, the Head of Medicines Net Zero for NHS England, and founding member of PharmacyDeclares®, and environmental activist group of pharmacists and pharmacy technicians who have been leading much of the strides towards sustainable medicines use in the UK. Pete’s passionate and compelling speech on the impact of climate change on human health challenged to confront the very real impact of climate change on our daily lives. He said “Our world needs climate action on all fronts; everything, everywhere, all at once”. He described the impact on climate related environmental changes on the increase in chronic disease such as cardiovascular disease and mental health, and the inevitable increase in medication use that this will bring – which will ultimately lead to ever increasing amounts of medication in our water supply. Pete challenged us in the audience to future proof our healthcare systems – to think differently – and to keep looking for better ways of protecting our world for the generations who follow.

The final keynote speech, closing the conference, was delivered by Clare Howard, the Clinical Lead for the National Polypharmacy programme in England. Clare described her award winning work supporting healthcare professionals to address the public health crisis of over-prescribing in our patients. She uses Action Learning sets to support teams to identify gaps in their own learning, and practice, and how to apply these to support safe and appropriate deprescribing. Clare shared the bespoke tools she uses to support healthcare professionals to ensure that their approach is patient centred and sustainable, even in very complex multi-morbid patients. Her practical approach resonated with the audience, and she made everyone wonder why we weren’t already doing everything she suggested already.

But the conference was more than the keynotes – the programme offered a myriad of seminars, workshops and interactive sessions, as well as an enormous poster area – where the work of researchers spanning from student pharmacists to imminent professors of pharmacy was showcased. Attendees could engage in the conference by presenting their original research, QI projects, good practice initiatives and prizes were awarded to both poster and oral presenters for their innovative work and compelling presentations.

I delivered an interactive session titled “Moving forward with digital clinical education… when ward-based training is not an option” during the congress. Unfortunately, as my co-presenter was unwell, this was a solo performance! The third United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) goal focusses on Good Health and wellbeing for all by 2030, reflecting the global shortage, and unequal distribution, of healthcare professionals across low, middle and high income countries. One way to increase access to a competent healthcare workforce, is to redesign and reimagine how we deliver our health care education. The session described for attendees what digital learning is, and how common strategies such as Computer-aided Instruction (CAI), virtual patients / virtual reality, as well as Serious Gaming and Human Patient Simulation (HPS). I shared our experiences with a hybrid approach to our Experiential Learning programme in hospitals in Northern Ireland, and how digital strategies can be used to support Pharmacists in practice to develop their mentoring, and teaching skills, as well as support students to prepare for learning in practice.

In our experience, a structured hybrid preparation course for students, with digital and live elements, can support learners to develop confidence in clinical skills in a simulated environment before applying their learning to “real” patients in practice. Attendees shared their experiences, and key takeaways included when to use which tool, and how to incorporate digital strategies meaningfully into clinical teaching, in order to demonstrate enhanced learning and importantly, improved outcomes for patients.

Aoife Fleming, Senior Lecturer in Clinical Pharmacy at University College Cork and Jelle Tichelaar, Professor of Clinical Pharmacology in Amsterdam University Medical Centre led an inspired session – sharing their real world experiences of how to make interprofessional learning for healthcare professionals work for everyone; students, healthcare teams, managers and most importantly for patient’s care.

For me, a real highlight of the conference was the Aural Apothecary’s podcast. For those of you who are unfamiliar, the Aural Apothecaries (www., Jamie, Gimmo and Steve the Chemist, offer a light-hearted – yet authentic – look at our practice as pharmacists, and challenge those they interview to choose a number of items which will define both memorable moments in their careers as well as what drives them as a professional pharmacists. During lunch on the second day of the Congress, we were treated to Roberto Fontini (former President of EAHP, and key champion of the EAHP statements) sharing his “Memory inducing medicine” as heparin, due to the death of a close friend, early in his career, from heparin induced thrombocytopenia, which inspired Roberto’s career in pharmacovigilance. The second guest was Beatriz Torroba, a hospital pharmacist from Madrid, who described how challenging the repeated poor prescribing of docetaxel by a junior dr in her unit led her to meet her now husband….he is now a much better prescriber we are told!

During the congress, the EAHP Environmental sustainability working group, led by co-chairs Barry Melia, Principal Pharmacist in Public Health Scotland and Min Na Eii, Greener NHS Chief Sustainability Officer’s Clinical Fellow – launched their paper on the roles hospital teams can do, to be published later this month. Attendees were challenged to “do one thing” in their personal and also in their professional life, that would make a difference to a more sustainable system, and importantly, to find a way to measure it – and keep striving for a better future, for all of us.

At the end of the Congress, the Chair of the EAHP Scientific Committee, Prof Thomas De Rijdt, announced that the 29th EAHP Congress will take place in Copenhagen, Denmark next March with a theme of “Person centred pharmacy – navigating digital

Written by Professor Roisín O’Hare
BSc (hons) MSc DPharm FHEA FPSNI(IP) FFRPS FRPS NI Lead Clinical Education Pharmacist Cardiology Pharmacist, Southern Health and Social Care Trust, N Ireland Hon. Professor of Pharmacy Practice, Queens University Belfast Immediate Past President, Guild of Healthcare Pharmacy

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