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'I chose a career in pharmacy to get rich'

Fourth year student Vaishali Shah considers what prompted her to study pharmacy and how to focus on patients over profits

Many of you will scoff reading the title of this article, but it came from a fellow student back in my first year of university. I’m now in my final year, and it’s scary to think that someone was going to become a healthcare professional for the money. I’m fairly certain the updated General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) standards for pharmacy professionals didn’t mention anything about maximising profit margins!

My personal reason for choosing pharmacy was due to the manner in which my local pharmacist treated my grandmother. She was 73 years old and had a variety of conditions that needed managing. The pharmacist took her time to explain what each medicine was, how each medicine worked, and if they had worked to my grandmother's expectations. It took a while – she had 14 medicines in total.

The pharmacist gave her enough time to digest the information and to ask any questions. It was really surprising to observe how little my grandmother knew about the pills she had been taking for the past 10 years.

Looking back, this is what a standard medicines use review (MUR) should be. Yes, the pharmacy wasn’t particularly busy and so the pharmacist could spend the time with my grandmother, but shouldn’t everyone’s experience and level of care be the same, whether the store is busy or not?

Pharmacy has changed dramatically in recent years. No longer do we just handle prescriptions, there are a whole host of services that are offered by pharmacists. Unfortunately the bottom line will always be a huge factor, with pharmacists asking: “Does it save money for the NHS, my boss or me? How will I be reimbursed, and how much?”

MURs and the annual target of 400 seem to be the bane of the community pharmacist. There are numerous stories of pharmacists being suspended or struck off from the GPhC register for falsifying MURs.

Is the pressure of hitting targets and making money turning competent and honest pharmacists into fraudsters?

With the NHS being financially squeezed and pharmacy funding cuts in England acting as a constant reminder of the lack of money in the system, many pharmacies are asking their pharmacists to push their services more. Since performing an MUR has a financial kick-back from the NHS, I think the medical value of the MUR has diminished and evolved into a paper-pushing exercise, which ultimately places the patient at a disadvantage.

It's so easy to forget the patient, but they have to come first. I personally want to be a pharmacist who can treat each patient as if they were my grandma, and not another number to help me achieve some targets.

Vaishali Shah is a fourth year student at Medway School of Pharmacy. Ms Shah's views are her own, and do not represent those of Medway.


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