The RPS National Board Election hustings this year, held on Telegram, brought up some very interesting questions. There were a lot of pertinent questions but not a lot of time to answer them. A fellow pharmacist who is also a contractor asked some very important questions and I thought it would be good to post the questions and answers here as these are things a lot of people want to know. Firstly I would like to thank Raza Ali for the excellent and well-thought questions he has brought to the table during the hustings. Here are the questions he kindly asked to all candidates and my response to each one.
1) What’s your vision of community pharmacy? Tech-led Dispensaries? If so, should the role change to a responsible tech rather than the pharmacist carrying the can?
A technician led dispensary will be exactly that and no longer a pharmacy. Pharmacists should never be made to carry the can for the errors of others. Getting an ACT to do the final check will save time to allow pharmacists to provide other clinical services in CP. However not matter how competent the ACTs are, this does not alleviate the RP blame should the ACT make an error on the final accuracy check even if the pharmacist clinically checks the prescription correctly.
We need all the pharmacy team working to the best of their abilities but the RP should remain in person at the centre of any community pharmacy at all times, especially when to intervene during any patient consultation face to face who are more likely and trained to spot rare cases of sepsis for example so they can correctly refer to the correct urgent care service as well as having good local knowledge and links with the community. What is required in community pharmacy going forward is strong leadership and fresh ideas from the EPB board and the RPS to address and action current CP issues by lobbying hard to the likes of MPs, NHSE and the Government to increase funding to CPs to reduce the financial constraints of the NHS such as new models of care, training and increase independent prescribing amongst CP to deal with urgent care illnesses to reduce A&E admissions and prevent complications from long-term complications in which community pharmacies are more than well-placed to deal with and referring the more serious conditions to the GPs or other primary care settings.
2) Jobs are disappearing as pharmacies are forced to close and increase in uni graduates.
Only 1500 roles created in practice and some in care homes… Where can we find a niche or new field?
We need to carry out a workforce survey to ensure pharmacists entering the profession have a job and the profession isn’t devalued. I see independent prescribers are a great addition to community pharmacy setting where we can run pharmacist-led clinics as mentioned earlier. Examples include substance misuse, asthma, type 2 diabetes, hypertension to name a few. We would of course need to advocate for increased remuneration and training for contractors to be able to deliver these services.
3) Should pharmacists bow out and leave technicians to do the job: innovation in pharmacy is drastically reducing the job role we currently do …why not move on gracefully and say maybe train up to a triage role in the community?
A pharmacy without a pharmacist is a retail shop. There is plenty of scope for all roles to develop In the current setup of community pharmacy and there is no reason we can’t offer triage using the current setup. The key issue is funding which is why lobbying hard to the Government is the way forward and increase their awareness of the issues Pharmacy are facing.
4) What is wrong with community pharmacy at the moment? What don’t you like?
Community pharmacy is currently presented with many challenges, which is great for progression providing there is a good support network and representation which will allow for us to overcome these obstacles. So when posed the question ‘as to what is wrong’, the answer lies in misrepresentation paralleled with disunity. This is something which I’ve been striving to achieve over the past year and will continue to do so with everyone’s support.
5) How are you going to stop the devaluation of pharmacy …dropping wages as reported by locums?
My current work in this sector is well known. I want to empower pharmacists to command a fair wage for the work they do. I have already led by example and explained how I command higher rates on my Pharmacist Cooperative platforms and that pharmacists should be doing more than just checking prescriptions to prove their value and always take the initiative to improve the pharmacy services to deliver excellent patient care.
6) Do you believe the RPS should be more political more unionised role?
The RPS should definitely be more political and increase engagement with all politicians as MPs and the Goverment hold greater power and more work needs to be done to do this as I have consistently met my local MPs and I want the whole pharmacy profession to do the same to increase awareness of the issues pharmacy are facing today and that the pharmacy cuts will severely affect the MPs constituents locally.
PDA are a great union, and I feel the RPS can work alongside the PDA and support the great work they do. They are also two separate organisations with separate functions. Collaborative working with NPA, PDA, GPhC etc are needed to ensure all effort is being made to steer the profession in a positive direction. e.g I believe the PDA and NPA should have been on the rebalancing board. More positive results can be achieved when different organisations work together to maximise their potential.
7) Young pharmacists are not just disillusioned with the RPS but also with the profession. Why is that and how will you change that with your role in specifically in the RPS?
Workplace pressures, reducing remuneration, reduced job satisfaction are all factors resulting in this disillusion.
Empowering young pharmacists and showing them opportunities will help counter this. I intend to use my position in the EPB, if elected, to engage with grassroots pharmacists and offer them career direction and make myself available on various platforms for advice to increase access for all pharmacists.
8) What are your opinions and how would you tackle the problem of mental health witihin pharmacy as a profession? What support system will you encourage using the RPS?
Mental health problems within pharmacy are an issue of great importance as well as a key NHSE priority. Through collaboration with unions such as PDA and also continuning the great work Pharmacist Support does for all the Pharmacy team, I will aim to integrate groups like these within RPS to create an open and confidential platform to help solve any concerns. Developing key relationships with mental health practitioners both locally and nationally is also an area we can explore and through your support and backing of the RPS, this is an outcome which can be brought about within a short time frame.
9) Do you think community pharmacy should adopt the Sheffield model? How will it benefit the profession?
I must admit I wasn’t aware of the Sheffield model but having looked it up, I see this as a perfect example of collaborative working amongst multi-disciplinary healthcare professionals. The evaluation carried out by Sheffield CCG showed positive outcomes in safer use of medicines and prescribing. It highlighted the value pharmacists can bring in a multi-disciplinary setup. I would recommend and support to implement similar schemes at a national level as this will not only improve Pharmacy’s standing in the medical profession but also patient’s views on Pharmacy to deliver excellent care.