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'The challenges our sectors face should be tackled as a profession'

The publication of the government’s long term workforce plan offers an opportunity for the various pharmacy sectors to work together. We should seize it, says Laura Buckley

Every patient’s journey through the ever-swinging NHS doors is distinctly different. Their first contact with a healthcare professional (HCP) might be as early in life as in utero, and they may not require significant healthcare support until much later in life. As we age, contact with NHS staff is interwoven into our lives as we need it, like an ever-ready safety net whenever our needs call upon it. Our lives often begin and end with NHS care and perhaps we are all guilty of taking the existence of the NHS for granted.

However, patients often don't see life as an NHS HCP behind those swinging doors, nor appreciate the challenges that each profession faces. Nor do they often see the grappling with funding, staffing needs or politics. While last week's (June 30) NHS long term workforce plan brought us more promises of inevitable change, there still seems to be an air of unease within our profession.

Read more: ‘A sad day for community pharmacy’: Sector reacts to NHSE workforce plan

There has been a monumental shift in the development of pharmacist roles, and we have seen lots of movement back and forth across the sectors. The chatter among the ranks suggests unrest, with suggestions that the additional roles reimbursement scheme (ARRS) represents a case of robbing Peter to pay Paul and that the movement of pharmacists into primary care networks (PCNs) should be halted, lest community pharmacy finds itself short-staffed. Do such suggestions not cast shade on PCN pharmacists?

The pharmacy profession currently sits atop a precipice and the success of the next few years is entirely dependent on one factor: cohesive working. We should never forget that the patient journey through the NHS relies on multiple contacts with multiple sectors within single professions. A patient might see multiple different types of doctor or nurse, and therefore it would only seem appropriate to assume that there will be different types of pharmacists involved in all aspects of the patient’s time receiving care.

As a PCN pharmacist, almost all of my patients have a community pharmacist, and many have had contact with a pharmacist in secondary care. My role complements the work of my colleagues in other sectors, and my contact with these colleagues has always been mutually beneficial so far in my career in general practice.

Read more: Cross-sector community and GP pharmacist training pilot launched

My role and that of other PCN pharmacists is impactful and I have many stories of how my relationships with pharmacists across the sectors have significantly enhanced my patients’ experiences, including joint consulting and improved transfer of care across the patient interfaces.

Casting doubt over the recruitment into one sector while spreading fear into another eviscerates our sense of being a united profession and only serves to weaken and fracture the relationship between pharmacists across all aspects of the NHS. Each sector within pharmacy has its own challenges that it must rise to face and should do so without seeking to halt the development of another.

Read more: CPE calls for ARRS to end as new workforce plan looms

To quote the fictional character Albus Dumbledore: “We are only as strong as we are united, as weak as we are divided.” The challenges our sectors face should be tackled as a profession that upholds and takes pride in both its individual and collective contribution to NHS care.

After all, the patient who travels through our services in their need for care will not discriminate the value of one pharmacist sector from another. So why should we?

Laura Buckley is a pharmacist at a PCN in East Yorkshire


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