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Not simply statistics: A summer pharmacy placement with a difference

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Matthew Reekie and Astrid Rose


AS third year undergraduates with pre-registration looming, career prospects are constantly at the forefront of our minds. Therefore, the opportunity of a unique placement at National Procurement within National Services Scotland (NSS) offered a valuable insight into an aspect of pharmacy which is often under-represented within the undergraduate curriculum.

As National Procurement was largely an unfamiliar concept to us, we were unsure what to expect of the placement. However, the friendliness of the team, their incredible enthusiasm for their roles and willingness to share their wealth of knowledge helped us to enjoy it to its fullest.

The placement offered a remarkably comprehensive experience in a variety of areas. We witnessed the valuable role of procurement and commodity specialists in negotiating and obtaining vital medicines for healthcare delivery and saw the pivotal roles of specialist pharmacists. The implementation of clinical expertise is used to directly benefit patients through ensuring the availability of the right drug, at the right time, for the right patient and crucially, at the right price.

Notably, we observed a number of pharmaceutical industry meetings which offered real life context to our university learned theory.  These discussions further enhanced our appreciation and understanding of the complex process involved in bringing a drug to market.

We were responsible for completing self-directed projects on the procurement and cost-effectiveness of treatments within the key therapeutic areas of Multiple Sclerosis and diabetes. This required clinical knowledge to interpret different treatment regimens and numeracy skills to calculate the various costs involved for the initial years of treatment. The necessity of providing efficacious cost-effective therapies was emphasised, allowing the maximum number of patients to derive the greatest treatment benefit.

Visiting the National Services Scotland office at Gyle Square in Edinburgh allowed us the chance to shadow specialist pharmacists involved in pivotal roles we had previously been unaware of. One such discussion introduced us to the fascinating concept of emergency planning and anticipatory healthcare.

Another had us observing the work that goes into prescription payment processing thus offering an insight into the journey of the prescription beyond the front-line of care. Furthermore, a tour of the National Distribution Centre in Canderside allowed us to visit the impressive distribution depot which packages a huge amount of medical devices every day for transport on a nationwide level.

Visiting Health Protection Services at NSS Meridian Court in Glasgow educated us on emerging antibiotic resistance, vaccinations, infection surveillance and other measures being taken to prevent this alarming threat. While in Meridian Court we participated in a meeting of the Homecare Governance Group to better understand the important decisions and processes that inform individualised patient care across the country.

This placement has shown us that the skills gained within any sector of pharmacy are transferable.  Opportunities for career advancement are available and could offer a satisfying and diverse career path which exemplifies the core values of Prescription for Excellence.

Correct medicine procurement and prescribing is a key factor in improving patient outcomes and delivering pharmaceutical care whilst managing NHS resources. Experiencing the role of National Procurement first-hand has provided us with a solid foundation of current practice and highlighted the requirement of an increased focus on procurement and specialist pharmacist careers within the undergraduate curriculum.

The placement was an enjoyable and very rewarding experience and we would strongly recommend the opportunity to other students and believe a specialist career within procurement is deserving of consideration.



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