My grandfather, who sadly died before I was born, was a community pharmacist in a small village in Anglesey in North Wales. My grandmother kept the pharmacy going and I have very early memories of it. My uncle was in marketing with Glaxo in Africa, so he too inspired me.
However, I was most influenced by uncle John a very close family friend who was an inspirational community pharmacist and he influenced me the most. Growing up I loved to watch him talking to the people he knew and cared for about health and social issues as well as their medicines. I will never forget the compassion with which he talked to drug users.
It was always going to be a decision between pharmacy or marine biology. But, when it came to it, the vocational route was more attractive than the Jacque Cousteau route! I have never regretted it and am still very passionate about the profession.
I’ve worked in hospital and community before becoming an academic. That’s why I am standing again to be a member of the English Pharmacy Board, why I have worked hard for FIP on educational development globally and why I have been passionate about teaching future pharmacists for nearly 30 years.
I was a part-time primary care pharmacist in Buckinghamshire FHSA and a part-time academic so had experience of working with GPs in the early 1990s. When I went on to run the postgraduate diploma in community pharmacy at King’s College London, one of the activities the students had to do was to develop a working relationship with their local GPs and work out how they could work together. Some of those students are now partners in GP practices.
It’s been very good for the profession and the EPB campaigned for it originally with RCGP. Along with colleagues at the University of Nottingham I have been privileged to be evaluating the NHS England pilot of pharmacists in GP practices. The final report has just been submitted so watch this space for the report.
Our students in Nottingham who are aspiring to such roles and some are doing part of their pre-registration year in GP surgeries and pursuing this role. Prescribing is also very important and I am happy that the GPhC are looking at removing the need to be qualified for 2 years before embarking on the qualification, I think the knowledge part can be achieved during the MPharm and the skills developed to a competent level during the foundation years. I also think we need to work as one profession and that more experienced pharmacists can mentor less experienced ones and that we need to work like our medical colleagues and refer difficult patients to expert secondary care pharmacists.
There has been increasing commercialisation of pharmacy. I’m not sure individual pharmacists are free to make unhindered professional decisions with the best interests of patients at the centre. This seems to be partly due to the target-driven contract and partly due to understaffing and having middle managers that are not pharmacists.
I really worry that patients are not receiving the best care because of this. I also think pharmacists are overworked and under a lot of pressure and that we haven’t got the skill mix right. Ideally, if pharmacists are to provide lots of services, there needs to be a second pharmacist as well as technical support. Many pharmacists are also forced to neglect the counter and the sale of P medicines and health promotion advice and leave it to assistants who do not always perform optimally. We do not seem to learn from repeated research from Which? If we can’t get this most public facing role right how can we expect to have greater roles in patient care?
I have long advocated for change in the contract, and believe that a fee per item of service, be it for scripts or MURs, is the enemy of patient care. I would love the contract to change so that pharmacists care for local patients and so that patient 500 gets the same MUR as patient number one and polypharmacy can be tackled without affecting pharmacists’ incomes.
I believe the current students will be very well prepared and adequately supported to deliver the complete pharmaceutical care, especially after their foundation years. A five-year integrated course would prepare them even better.
However, I believe that a lot of practising pharmacists are isolated and often don’t have mentors to inspire them. I have been very excited to co-chair the RPS innovators forum and It is great to see new models of care emerging where local pharmacists from across the sectors are working more closely together and with other health care providers, commissioners and STPs to meet the needs of their communities.
I believe that the RPS provides much of the support that pharmacists need to deliver patient care and that the RPS Faculty enables pharmacists to demonstrate to other healthcare professionals and employers that they are practising at the top of their profession. I am extremely proud to be a first wave Faculty Fellow and take every opportunity to encourage people to join the faculty.
Obviously, it would be a risk not to allow pharmacists to have read/write access to the patient record. Without access to records, pharmacists are inadequately supported to deliver pharmaceutical care to patients. If elected I will continue to campaign hard for this. In the meantime, pharmacists should ensure that they keep their own patient records and we need to encourage far more community pharmacists to use the summary care record, I believe very few do so at present.
The NHS is undergoing unprecedented changes and ALL pharmacists are working under pressure with fewer resources. Pharmacy is on the lips of NHS England, the other Royal Colleges, and in the media more than ever before. We are finally getting the professional recognition we deserve.
However, the English Pharmacy Board must build on our successful leadership work, by further supporting pharmacists in delivering excellence in patient care. My experience at a high level in academia, education, research and health policy allows me to contribute positively at all levels and across all sectors
The next three years are crucial for pharmacy and its development and I believe that as a leader on the EPB I can influence and support that change.
Claire Anderson is Professor of Social Pharmacy and Head of Division of Pharmacy Practice and Policy at the University of Nottingham and Chair of the RPS England Pharmacy Board.