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An open letter from a community pharmacy contractor to GP practice pharmacists

Bernadette Brown

want to wish you luck and happiness in your career as a practice pharmacist. 
It is such a great opportunity for you and at the same time I am so very saddened that such talent is leaving the community sector. 

My young pharmacists also want, and need, a career structure and a clinical path to follow in community pharmacy. So I am hoping that someone will help me influence change, as I want to change the way community pharmacy graduates are treated. 

My hope is that the Royal Pharmaceutical Society will develop a career framework for community pharmacists, and that those who have been qualified in the community sector for at least two years could undertake a clinical diploma (and be actively encouraged to do so), just the same as the hospital sector, but crucially with funding! 

Currently they have to pay for themselves, or their employer does. I want to see funding for this as I am currently funding my two pharmacists to achieve this dream with no financial help at all. This is, of course, on top of all the other costs involved in running a pharmacy.

Sessional success
I believe pharmacists would be more rounded professionals if they got experience in both primary care and community pharmacy, as not only will they develop a new range of skills, but importantly, they will be serving the same people who need care in our communities. I am meeting with my NHS health board about this.

In one health board area that I know of, sessional primary care work has been offered to some pharmacists who work for a multiple to encourage them to stay in community pharmacy. And it works! 

My aim is to replicate this, as all my pharmacists want to be more clinically focused, and both have obtained masters with distinction. Regardless of which setting they choose to work, they will be an asset to our profession.

Checking out
The fact is that my pharmacists are already bored checking scripts all day long, but I have managed to retain them by offering a career and a way to get face-to-face consultations. 

They will be better pharmacists learning from our amazing nurses and doctors, and then the payback is that the doctors and nurses who help them will then benefit as the pharmacists will provide sessions in their practices.

So, I win by keeping highly skilled pharmacists who are independent prescribers, who improve their clinical and consultation skills by using them this daily in the pharmacy. The NHS wins by reducing unnecessary expensive appointments with GPs out of hours and A&E. But, most importantly the community pharmacy sector wins by keeping motivated highly skilled pharmacists, and sharing them with our practices and ultimately the patient is at the centre of all of this.

Patients win easier access to a highly skilled healthcare professional who they can trust, practising realistic medicine and medicines otpimisation to a very high standard, and who can help them whether they are acutely unwell or have a long-term chronic condition, 

The triage nurse who is part of my team is increasing her hours as she loves the community pharmacy atmosphere and can see that that level of triage in the pharmacy is crucial. Whether we do it ourselves or we employ nurses just as GPs do, this is a wonderful opportunity for our sector to be seen by the public as a healthcare facility with easier to access while still getting excellent care in the community.

I employ her as I can learn so much from her, and as she also learns from me, but it is the people who trust us that get the benefits.

I am currently capturing data for all of this and the research team are very interested in seeing what impact this model is having at every level.

Community spirit
Anyway, I hope people continue to champion our community sector and find new and innovative ways to help people like me to keep talented people in the community sector. I want my pharmacists to embrace technology and digital platforms knowing it takes them away from the robotic boring tasks, whilst maintaining patient safety with robust SOPs.

Funding for training and development is key, but once trained, pharmacists need the environment and the support to practise and make the clinical pharmacy practice dream a reality every day.

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