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The rise of the pharmacy technician!


Lisa Jamieson
Lisa Jamieson


IT’S taken me 23 years but I’ve finally emerged!!

I’ve was recently nominated for the Yorkshire and Humber Regional Leadership Recognition awards and I’m delighted to have been shortlisted in the category of ‘Emerging Leader of the Year’. Nothing says ‘I appreciate you’ more in my mind than an award nomination by your boss and I am incredibly grateful for the support, encouragement and opportunities he has given me over the last 5 years.

However, I think that pharmacy technicians are the hidden leaders within pharmacy and we do it every day; we’re just not very good at shouting about it! Leadership to me is about helping people be the best they can be, whether that’s inspiring patients to make good choices about their health, or enabling your team to reach their goals. It’s also about setting a good example and living by your ideals. So in my mind I have been a pharmacy leader since I ‘fell’ into the profession 23 years ago.

Back to the start
Let’s go back to where it started whilst I tell you about my interesting and what I consider to be a very privileged career as a pharmacy technician. I left school at 16 with 8 decent GCSEs at grades A-C and went on to college to do some A-levels. I had no clue about what I wanted to be, but I did know that I didn’t want to go to University, so a year into my A-levels I decided I needed to ‘earn while I learned’. I saw an advert in the local paper for a student pharmacy technician post at Warrington General Hospital, and decided I liked the sound of it. A visit to look around the pharmacy and a gruelling interview later I embarked on my two year pharmacy technician apprenticeship. To say I loved it would be an understatement! I felt like I’d found my place and role in the world.

Once I had qualified I spent the next 8 years working in hospital pharmacy in a variety of hospitals in the North West of England. I saw a lot of changes during this time; pharmacists moved out of the dispensary and took up more prominent clinical roles on the wards; technicians became accredited checking technicians (ACTs); and assistant technical officers (ATOs) started dispensing! Whilst some people struggled with these changes I embraced them and saw the development of all pharmacy roles as a progressive move. I was the positive voice for change and helped others to embrace their new roles by developing competency based training for the ATOs which gave the detractors the assurance they needed.

Learning curve
In 2002 I got a secondment opportunity to work in primary care at Halton PCG to develop and deliver a domiciliary medication review service, alongside a brilliant clinical pharmacist. This was an innovative post at the time and needed people like me who could take a leap in the dark and then work hard to make it a bright future. Oh boy, what a learning curve that was!

I’d always thought that for a technician I was quite clinically sound in that I understood basic pharmacology and therapeutics and I had even won a prize for that subject at college. It turns out I didn’t know as much as I thought, and I certainly didn’t understand the healthcare system outside of hospital pharmacy. I spent 18 months working in this role and I learned more in that time than my previous 8 years. The pharmacist and I were a great team! We responded to referrals from health and social care professionals for patients who were housebound, over 75 years old and struggling with complex medication regimens (polypharmacy and deprescribing anyone?).

In 2003 I moved into GP practice support for Warrington PCT, working closely with a small team of pharmacists and managing a small team of technicians to deliver cost effective, evidenced based initiatives and improve the safety of prescribing in GP practices by auditing repeat prescribing systems and training non-clinical GP practice staff. This was a more traditional leadership position which suited my leadership style where I am at my most comfortable; developing others while keeping an eye on the key objectives.

All change
A year later saw a change in personal circumstances and a move to Yorkshire to work for the Leeds PCTs in a variety of roles (and some maternity leave) including a move back to domiciliary medication reviews. This time I worked without the support of a regular pharmacist and I was employed in a shared post between health and social care.

The confidence and knowledge I’d gained whilst working in Halton allowed me to work independently the majority of the time, only referring to the practice pharmacists when faced with a query outside of my competence. This was the first time I had done a clinical role without direct supervision in primary care and I wanted to make a good job of it to open the door to other technicians. I’m pleased to say that I managed to firmly establish this technician role within Leeds Health and Social Care system.

Next came my move to Kirklees PCT to the job I am still in as I write this; although it has evolved somewhat over the last 7 years. As my title suggests I develop and implement projects to optimise the use of medicines. Since the 2013 NHS reforms I work across two CCGs and although I predominantly work in a strategic role, where I decide what the right things to do are as well as developing the right ways to do them, I am still integrated into two GP practices in order to ‘keep my hand in’ at an operational level.

I run a benzodiazepine reduction clinic in one surgery that 5 years ago was one of the highest prescribers of these medicines in England. The success of this clinic led me to find a more sustainable solution for benzodiazepine addiction for all the practices in the area, so I led the work of a partnership project between the CCGs, Public Health and Lifeline (the provider of Drug and Alcohol Services in Kirklees) to develop the Clarity service. I was very proud of this project and what it’s achieved in the last 2 years so I was thrilled when my submission to the HSJ awards led to us being shortlisted in the Primary Care Innovation category.

lisa trophy

If the last 23 years haven’t been busy enough (I do have a life outside work too!), 2015 in particular has been an outstanding year professionally. In the summer I graduated from Leeds Beckett University with an MSc (with Distinction!) in Strategic Project Management (not bad for a girl who never wanted to go to University!); I won an ‘Innovation Award’ at the North Kirklees CCG achievement awards; I’ve had a project shortlisted for a HSJ award; and was shortlisted for a regional leadership award..and won! So, on reflection, perhaps at the age of 40 I am just emerging, because one thing I am absolutely certain of is that I am yet to reach my true potential.

Lisa Jamieson is Medicines Optimisation Project Manager at NHS North Kirklees and Greater Huddersfield CCGs

Follow Lisa @joggerjamieson

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