Case study on the Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) between the Pharmacists’ Defence Association and Aston University, funded by Innovate UK.

About the Pharmacists’ Defence Association

The Pharmacists' Defence Association (PDA) is the largest independent pharmacist representative organisation in the UK with more than 37,000 members. It is a not-for-profit organisation which looks after the interests of individual pharmacists, supporting them in their legal, practice and employment needs. The PDA also seeks to influence the professional, practice and employment agenda to support its members.

The challenge that the KTP is addressing

The NHS is under huge pressure, struggling to deal with the demands of an aging population that suffers increasingly from multiple long-term conditions. The NHS is also working at full capacity, with recruitment challenges in many areas. Pharmacists are a highly trained and knowledgeable workforce, which could be enabled to deliver more healthcare interventions, particularly alongside the seasonal flu and COVID vaccination programme. This approach could also help to increase job satisfaction for individual pharmacists. However, to advocate for an increased role for pharmacists, the PDA needs to provide NHS policy makers with robust evidence of the feasibility, acceptability and impacts of any intervention that might be introduced. The organisation does not currently have the expertise to carry out the research and evaluation to produce this evidence.

Why a KTP was the ideal route

The PDA, as a non-profit membership association, is an unusual partner for a KTP, as most projects involve collaborations between commercial companies and universities. However, a KTP provides the best means for the PDA to learn how to design, deliver and evaluate a pilot intervention. The project requires a combination of expertise in both pharmacy and psychological sciences, and the researchers from Aston University together provide this unique skillset.

Professor Chris Langley, who leads the project, is a practising pharmacist by profession with twenty years’ experience of academic research. The project sits squarely within his research interests, which focus on how the health service can utilise better the skills of the pharmacist to improve the health of the population. He will work closely with Dr Gemma Mansell, from the School of Psychology, who is experienced in designing, delivering, and evaluating healthcare interventions involving behaviour change in a range of different settings, including primary and secondary care, as part of multidisciplinary research teams.

The PDA already has well established links with Aston Pharmacy School, which has been providing pharmacy education for 100 years and was rated in the Top 10 in the UK for research quality in pharmacology and pharmacy by the Good University Guide 2022.

What the research will involve

The team, including KTP Associate Dr Jason Tang, will develop a short list of possible health interventions that pharmacists could deliver to patients who have come for their flu or COVID vaccination. These will be put to the project’s steering committee, which involves representatives from the KTP partners, GPs and NHS commissioners, and from the pharmacy where the pilot will be carried out. Possible interventions include measuring blood pressure, or screening for healthcare problems such as atrial fibrillation or raised cholesterol levels. The interventions will be trialled at a community pharmacy in Dudley during the autumn vaccination programme of 2023, then evaluated for their health impact and cost effectiveness. The interventions may then be adapted based on this evaluation and will be trialled again in 2024 to gain more data.

The team will also use questionnaires and focus groups to understand how patients and pharmacists feel about the changes. They will see whether patients are happy to be approached about other health questions during their vaccination and whether pharmacists feel comfortable in doing so. This will also enable the intervention to be adapted to increase acceptability during the second vaccination round if required.

The potential benefits of the research

Previous research undertaken by colleagues from the Pharmacy and Psychology Schools at Aston University have demonstrated the healthcare benefits pharmacists can make in the delivery of healthcare services, such as providing lifestyle advice to patients with cardiovascular disease1 or the provision of weight management advice2. If this pilot also proves successful, the KTP will help the PDA make its argument to NHS policy makers for an enhanced role for pharmacists during the vaccination programme period, helping to reduce pressure on the NHS. The project will also give the PDA the skills to carry out and evaluate further pilots for other interventions in the future.

The additional research and evaluation skills will strengthen the PDA’s work in healthcare policy development, helping them to attract more members.

What the partners say

Alison Jones, Director of Policy, PDA:

“There are already some moves to enable pharmacists working in the community to deliver more aspects of clinical care. For example, with appropriate training, pharmacists can also take on some aspects of the prescribing of medicines. This project will be an important part of that evolution, supporting individual pharmacists to have more opportunities to practice and so develop more fulfilling careers.”

Professor Chris Langley, Aston Pharmacy School, Aston University:

“Since COVID, the way we deliver healthcare has changed. We have a backlog in diagnosing underlying disease and at the same time fewer face-to-face consultations. If we can make use of the time that pharmacists have with patients during their vaccinations to deliver other services, then that could help to ensure patients are diagnosed and can receive treatment much more quickly.”

Dr Gemma Mansell, Lecturer in the School of Psychology:

“As researchers, we always want our work to have a positive impact on patients. We want it to help people to live healthier lives and help healthcare professionals to deliver their services in the most effective way. So being able to work directly with an organisation like the PDA and be able to look at how an intervention can support behaviour change, by patients and pharmacists, is really exciting.”


[1] Morton, K., Pattison, H., Langley, C. and Powell, R. (2014). A qualitative study of English community pharmacists' experiences of providing lifestyle advice to patients with cardiovascular disease. Research in Social and Administrative Pharmacy. 11 (1), e17-e29. ISSN 1551-7411.
[1] Bush, J., Langley, C. A., Mills, S. and Hindle, L. (2014). A comparison of the provision of the My Choice Weight Management Programme via general practitioner practices and community pharmacies in the United Kingdom. Clinical Obesity. 4 (2), 91-100. ISSN 1758-8103.