Where did you study?
I studied pharmacy at Queens University Belfast. I completed my pre-registration year in community pharmacy in a small chain, in the same town I went to school. Once I had finished I did a few locums for the same company and was offered a relief position.
Why did you venture across the Irish sea?
I had friends in England who told me about the offers they had been receiving and it made me feel quite undervalued. So I decided to move to the “mainland”. I applied for a few jobs and ended up with Lloyds pharmacy and living in Liverpool.
Did you enjoy your early managerial experiences?
I moved from relief manager to pharmacy manager to cluster manager. I was really enjoying work, really enjoying progressing in my career but I had always wanted to travel so I took a career break for a year and travelled. I even got to work in a hospital in Sydney for 6 months of my 14-month adventure.
What did you do on return from your year out?
When I came home I got a job at Interface Clinical Services. This job involved working in primary care. Delivering services such as osteoporosis, diabetes, asthma reviews. Again I started making my way up the company, first into service development, then regional lead for the north-west, then a national lead pharmacist.
At one stage I had a team of 90 pharmacists running reviews, clinics, hospital work and making sure they were trained. Also developing a QOF service helping practices identify patients they should be receiving QOF credit for, but due to coding errors or other factors had missed out on.
I had always been focused on delivering care based on NICE or the latest evidence in disease areas and saw that with more responsibility I could help make that change on a bigger scale. And through understanding how clinical systems work in GP land, how the mechanics of QOF work, of delving into guidance from ESC, SIGN, ADA I could create services that could help primary care. And the best part, it was by upskilling pharmacists to be experts on those disease areas and primary care to deliver some outstanding care.
Can you tell us about your first encounters with the pharmaceutical industry?
I’d been working on a diabetes service for quite a while and really saw that there was so much more pharmacists could do in that regard. And it was that point I had been approached by industry to come work as a project manager to help deliver value-based health care. A concept that value is the outcome for the patient over the cost. As opposed to value being the lowest cost available. I thought this was an amazing opportunity to help with a bigger population set again and to gain experience in the industry.
I had been approached by industry before to become a Medical Science Laison (MSL) for a company working in the area of pain. I looked into their portfolio, their evidence, the guidelines and felt that it wasn’t a good fit. It didn’t feel like it was best in class or evidence-based enough and I couldn’t hang my pharmacist hat on that. So I stayed with Interface for another 2 years, gaining more experience and exposure working with federations, CCGs, hospitals, AHSNs, NICE and others. It’s not always how fast you can get to the new job, but going to the right job.
How did you get into marketing?
After working for a year as a project manager, I ended up applying for the marketing manager job. I didn’t have any experience in marketing, but by having exposure in the company, understanding how the NHS receives messages, how data could help identify the areas who most needed help or could benefit from improved outcomes and an understanding of the supply chain from prescriber to community pharmacy it showed I had the skills to succeed (or hope to succeed, it’s still only a year in!).
I’ve now also enrolled in a course to become CIM (Chartered Institute of Marketing) certified at diploma/degree level to make sure I have all the basics and grounding needed.
Chris is the newest member of the Pharmacy in Practice Editorial Board. The purpose of this voluntary position is to provide guidance and advice on the editorial direction of Pharmacy in Practice. You can see who else is on the board by clicking here.