Opportunities in community pharmacy

By Valerie Sillito, Community Pharmacist

When I qualified , a long long time ago…. pharmacy was all about supply i.e. making powders, compounding creams by the kg, hand filling capsules and many other arcane activities. If a local GP actually asked me for my opinion I was more likely to have a heart attack, never mind come up with a useful suggestion. Of course the BNF only ran to about a 100 pages and the drug shelves were relatively empty (we didn’t have a drug database as this was the handwriting era!).

So, if you were to ask me then what the opportunities in the future might be I suspect it would have been a very limited list.

Now community pharmacy has come on in such leaps and bounds I hardly recognise myself. To name but a few activities: supply of EHC, NRT, treating UTIs and Chlamydia, CPUS (community pharmacy urgent supply) substance misuse services, flu vaccinations, medication reviews, warfarin clinics and those are just the ones under PGDs (patient group directives). Many pharmacies now also offer private services, i.e. the patient has to pay up front, for travel vaccinations, HPV and meningitis B vaccinations, erectile dysfunction and hair loss treatment to name but a few and a very recent innovation has been a sore throat service with treatment if required.

On top of that lot you may well decide to become an Independent Prescriber (and I would encourage you to do so as it is very fulfilling) and be able to run clinics in the shop; I have personally been involved in Asthma/COPD, hypertension and Contraception in conjunction with four different surgeries.

Nowadays GPs expect you to be involved and have an opinion on patient treatment-after all you are the drug expert! Some “at risk” patients get their medication delivered in dosette boxes with a MAR chart (medicines administration record) and this often involves a “carer” either prompting or helping a patient to take their medication. This requires good co-ordination between the surgery, care company and the pharmacy and you would be heavily involved here probably having been asked to rationalise the treatment regime and suggest appropriate forms of medication i.e. liquids, soluble tablets, modified release forms of tablets etc.

So really you have to wonder how we manage to cover this lot… thank heaven for checking technicians, dispensers and good counter staff. Where would we be without them-back in the supply chain of course!

There is no doubt in my mind that the pharmacists of today in community pharmacy are able to use their clinical knowledge to its fullest advantage and to the advantage of the patients, their families and carers, not to mention the GP. This is not to say that we do not also fulfil a management/ ownership function as well. With the right staff and proper organisation it is possible to do if you wish to.

Good luck for the future!

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