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“I love using clinical skills” says Scottish pharmacist of the year Calum Murray

Calum Murray

Could you tell us a little bit about where you practice and how long have you been a pharmacist?


I am based in Alness Pharmacy in Easter Ross, which is about 20 miles north of Inverness. I have been a pharmacist for 4 years this year.


What was the award you won and why did you receive it?


I won Scottish Pharmacist of the Year. I won for a variety of reasons that cover several roles that I do. Initially, as a community pharmacist manager, I have streamlined the working processes and increased the profitability of the pharmacy. Additionally, I have improved the relationship with the local GP practice which has resulted in us taking over some of their workloads. For example, we triage patients with acute ailments and maximise the use of services within the pharmacy contract, along with providing some private services.


You are currently a community pharmacy champion. What does this role involve?


This role involves assisting other pharmacies with community pharmacy services. Our main aim is to resolve any issues, share best practice and standardise the level of service across the health board. We have a big focus on Chronic Medication Service (CMS) and patient safety just now but we also have set up several forums, in Inverness and Easter Ross, to bring together pharmacy teams so that we all work better together.


As part of this role, I have set up a pharmacy forum to bring together an isolated part of Highland and I am in the process of, with the primary care pharmacy teams, developing a CMS delivery package for community pharmacies.


Do you have an area of special interest? If so could you tell us a little about it?


As an independent prescriber, I run a travel health clinic at the pharmacy which I really enjoy. The patients love it as it’s a one-stop shop for all their travel needs. They are usually amazed that I can assess their needs, prescribe and administer vaccines in one consultation. I am also hoping to set up a polypharmacy clinic with an aim of rationalising medication and reducing waste, which is a big focus for NHS Highland right now.


Are you optimistic about the future of pharmacy?


I am very optimistic about the future of pharmacy. I feel that we are heading in the right direction and if we work on implementing the action points from the Achieving Excellence document, we will be able to provide a better level of care for our patients.


What is the best thing about your role?


I love using the clinical skills I have learned through the independent prescribing course and further NES training events. My patients now expect me to take them into the consultation and properly listen to and examine them if need be, which increases their confidence in myself as a vital member of the healthcare team.


What is the worst?


I’ve always found the management side of community pharmacy difficult. We are trained to be healthcare professionals but have absolutely no managerial training. So I find it difficult to balance doing the best for my patients while also managing a pharmacy team. In an ideal world, pharmacists would be free to explore the clinical side of the job instead of planning staff rotas or doing the payroll.


Are there too many pharmacists?


Not at all, I think there is not enough! Especially in the Highlands, we are working hard on ideas to increase recruitment and retention of pharmacists in the Highlands.


Do you think community pharmacists get paid too much?


Probably not enough as our job can be very challenging at times and we are only getting busier and busier.


Are tempted to go and work in GP practice?


I really enjoy working in a community pharmacy and building a rapport with my patients. Every day is different and I am kept on my does with every patient that comes through the door.


Are you a member of any professional organisations?


I am a member of RPS.


If you could change one thing about community pharmacy what would that be?


I’d definitely like to see an ACT in every community pharmacy to free up the pharmacist to carry out more clinical orientated roles.


What are your ambitions for the role of RPS coordinator for Highland?


The aim is to provide more training events in the Highlands. A lot of training tends to be focused around the bigger cities of Aberdeen, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Dundee, which are all at least 3 hours from Inverness let alone Skye or Caithness! So we are hoping to increase access to training under the RPS banner.


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