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5 minutes with…Yousaf Ahmad

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Yousaf Ahmad
Yousaf Ahmad


Why did you study pharmacy?
I actually got into pharmacy as a spur of the moment kind of thing, I found it through ‘clearing’ (yes I said clearing!). I knew I wanted to do something science-y, but also something practical that involved people.

I went straight from fifth year in school, so I didn’t sit or have any advanced highers (or A-levels for English readers). It felt right at the time, so I went for it. It all happened really quickly – one day I was not in pharmacy and the next day I was!

What do you love about pharmacy?
There are quite a few things I really love about pharmacy, but perhaps the most important thing to me is the contact that I have with patients and the public.

The variety of areas that I work in enable me to meet a range of people, and the greatest joy that I get is when I am able to help and care for them. It can be something as simple listening to patients, through to managing complex interventions and medicines.

Another really important aspect that I enjoy in pharmacy is also the range of healthcare professionals and clinicians that I work with. Due to the diverse application, the pharmacy degree has enabled me to apply my knowledge and experience to a range of projects, care models and settings, all of which have an impact on caring for patients in one way or another.

Throughout the 10 years I have been qualified, I have worked with some of the most amazing clinicians, which has helped me better understand the needs of others and how best to practise as a pharmacist.

What’s the point of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS)?
We need a professional membership body which has a sole responsibility to represent our profession at all levels to all bodies. I think there is an absolute need to have a membership body that can assist, direct, advise, promote, nurture, drive forward the profession of pharmacy.

If we reflect on how other professionals are represented and governed (such as our medical colleagues), they have both a separate membership body and a separate governing body with clear remits.

More recently, if we reflect on the power of the British Medical Association (which is both a professional organisation and a trade union), it brought the government to its knees with the recent strikes. I would love to have a pharmacy professional body that can represent me to the highest level and can help hold others to account as needed.

Is the RPS relevant in Scotland?
Yes I think it is. We are lucky here in Scotland, as we have a relatively small committee and so have a closer links to our RPS Scotland colleagues, compared to the connection pharmacists in England have with RPS there. We have a fantastic RPS Scotland team, who are approachable, eager to help and always willing to push the profession forward.

Some pharmacists are still apathetic about engaging with the RPS in Scotland, just as they are in other parts of the UK, but the tide is changing, especially with the RPS Faculty and the recognition that this is slowly beginning to have.

Did you vote in the RPS board election?

Who did you vote for and why?
I voted for one current board member and two new candidates.

The reasons for voting for these colleagues varied. Separate to their ‘manifestos’ I believe each of these colleagues have qualities that would benefit our profession as a whole and represent the most diverse nature of pharmacists well at the RPS level.

For the first new candidate, I believe his insight and extensive experience at the front-end, grass root pharmacy level is critical and although he is relatively young, he needs to have this voice heard, as he represents the majority of the profession – community pharmacy. The only one to do so.

For the next new candidate, I believe her passion and drive to inform, educate and promote the pharmacy profession as ‘educated medicine experts’ is essential if we are going to develop the independent clinical practitioners of the future.

I voted for the current board member because of his past experience on the RPS board and his ability to engage with different stakeholders across the spectrum of health and health related services.

Would you ever consider standing for election?
Maybe, never say never!

If you could change one thing in pharmacy what would it be?
Perception and culture, sorry that’s two things, but they are similar, so count as one!

I think as a profession we can be our own worst enemy. I believe we have so much potential on offer for patients and healthcare systems, from our generalisability in knowledge through to our availability in the high street, there is so much going for pharmacy and pharmacists.

Government leaders are taking note, (I would agree not everywhere in the country). But, where we stumble or lack, is our own self-inflicted limitations in practice. As profession we tend to be people that practise in the ‘black and white’ spheres – it’s either white or black, or yes or no, or right or wrong.

But, what we fail to realise is that the patients, or should I say people that we care for and deal with, live in the ‘grey’ area of life, we can’t pigeon hole the patients, so why do we pigeon hole the care we deliver.

We should be a profession that practises more in the ‘grey’ area of clinical care. That’s where I live!

How can the use of technology enhance patient care in community pharmacy?
The answer to this is a no brainer! The more we know about our patients, the better we can help them. The best way this can be done is through technology. Within community pharmacy, I have two main opinions here:

Using technology for access – Having the right software to grant you access into the full patient case notes is key. Patients to this day, still believe that community pharmacy staff already have direct access to the case notes, or GP records. The public is shocked that community pharmacy does not.

We are living and continue to move in an evolving technology world, it’s only a matter of time that this will happy for sure. I think it will be a momentous occasion when data sharing happens on a regular basis in the community pharmacy, with their counterparts in GP practices and hospitals.

Using technology for automation and process – This is fast becoming the norm, the use of automation and, dare I say it, centralisation of the dispensing process using technology. I am all for it. Let’s take the administration side of pharmacy out of the equation and put in place the clinical element.

This is where the model of community pharmacy is changing the most I feel, and colleagues are inherently dubious, but that’s the same sentiment in any sort of change. Doesn’t necessary mean it’s wrong!

What are your thoughts on community pharmacy and the evidence-base of products they sell?
I am presuming here were are talking about OTC, P medicine and everything else that is usually on the shop floor of a typical pharmacy – from TENS machines through to soaps and razors.

For everything on the shop floor – Not much evidence base here. So why does it take up most of the space in a community pharmacy? That’s my simplest thought.

I ask my colleagues and friends in community pharmacy: What is the reasoning behind some of the things that you sell on your shop floor? Is it a relic of a bygone era, when pharmacies were seen by the public as convenience retailers? If that is the case, then community pharmacy is still in the dark ages, as soaps and convenience goods are still sold in every community pharmacy up and down the country.

We have enough supermarkets today that cover all this. It would be good if community pharmacy took all these ‘shop goods’ away and made the space more available for clinical orientated tasks, such as consulting rooms to allow for mpore private conversations and clinical duties to be performed, areas of real information and signposting, areas for charities, people and groups to come together. What a daring thought I guess!

I think healthcare counter colleagues have a really difficulty job.

Do we need to tighten up or expand the available products on MAS?
Expand! Expand! Expand!

What’s your 10 year plan?
To be a recognised clinical expert in my field with a dedication to clinical care of patients, and more so, to be in a position of leadership, so that I can push the profession forward in order to help it reach its full potential

Is there someone in pharmacy you look up to? If so who and why?
My professional mentor – Professor Norman Lannigan. With his diverse experience, and well founded and devoted leadership qualities, he is a person that I look up to.

He is able to inspire me to reach my own goals in both my professional and personal life, but more so, provides me with the empowerment to do more for my profession, patients, public and colleagues in any way that I can.

Having a mentor or someone you look up to is important, I feel. In order to truly do well in your career and personal goals, self and inner reflection is important, having the right person to guide you through this journey is important too.

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