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How I made the transition to general practice pharmacy

Shilpa Patel says her move from community pharmacy to general practice was a major change – but she's never looked back

I made the move to the general practice element of primary care eight years ago and it was definitely a big adjustment and a major change. In community pharmacy, my main focus was on dispensing medications and counselling patients. But in my general practice role, I have a much broader scope of practice. I've become an integral part of the healthcare team at my practice, working closely with doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals (HCPs).

In my experience of general practice, pharmacists bring their expertise in medication management, drug interactions, and therapeutic knowledge. We play a crucial role in optimising medication regimens, ensuring medication safety, and promoting rational drug use. This includes conducting medication reviews, identifying drug-related problems and working with prescribers to make appropriate medication adjustments or deprescribing decisions.

We also contribute to chronic disease management. I help manage conditions like diabetes, hypertension, and asthma by monitoring patients' medication adherence, conducting regular reviews and providing lifestyle counselling. By actively engaging with patients, we can improve treatment outcomes and help patients better control their health conditions.

Read more: GP pharmacists to lead north east London virtual hypertension programme

One of the best parts of transitioning to general practice for me has been having the opportunity to engage in collaborative care. I work closely with other HCPs in multidisciplinary team meetings, discussing patient cases and developing comprehensive treatment plans. This collaborative approach ensures that patients receive optimal and personalised treatment.

Community pharmacists' clinical and communication skills are eminently transferable. We are already experts in effectively communicating with patients, explaining medication regimens, potential side effects and proper administration techniques. However, patient counselling in general practice not only covers medication-related information but also lifestyle modifications, self-management strategies and adherence support. Building rapport and trust with patients is crucial in both settings to promote patient engagement and shared decision-making.

To successfully transition into general practice, it's important to familiarise yourself with the specific protocols, guidelines, and regulations applicable in this part of primary care. Seeking opportunities for professional development, attending workshops, conferences and training programmes can help you stay updated with the latest clinical guidelines and advancements in pharmaceutical care.

Read more: What will the push for access in the new GP contract mean for pharmacists?

Integration into the new work environment is also important. Engaging with the general practice team, understanding their roles and responsibilities and establishing effective working relationships is key. By collaborating closely with GPs, nurses, and other HCPs, pharmacists can gain a deeper understanding of the overall healthcare system and contribute to a co-ordinated approach to patient care.

In conclusion, my experience is that transitioning from community pharmacy to general practice is a great professional development opportunity for pharmacists. It involves expanding clinical responsibilities and enhancing communication and collaboration skills. Pharmacists in general practice have the chance to make a positive impact on patient care in a different way by optimising medication management, contributing to chronic disease management and engaging in collaborative care.

Read more: Pharmacists are not 'cheap' substitutes for GPs – we are so much more

With ongoing professional development and a proactive mindset, pharmacists can successfully navigate this transition and contribute to the holistic care of patients elsewhere in a primary care setting. My career and entire life changed after I made the move, so I would encourage you all to explore your options.

Shilpa Patel is the lead prescribing pharmacist and a GP partner at WellBN in East Sussex

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