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What can England's community pharmacists learn from their international peers?

A trip away has Beth Kennedy thinking about what community pharmacists in England could learn from international models of pharmacy

As I write this, I’m hastily shoving a rag-tag array of summer clothes into a holdall and obsessively making sure I’ve definitely got my passport while I get ready to jet off for my week-long holiday to Budapest.

All the usual pre-holiday rituals have been completed: frantic cleaning so I don’t come home to mess; out-of-office email on; each item on a growing to-do list diligently ticked off.

And, of course, I’ve made the obligatory trip to my local pharmacy to pick up all my last-minute travel bits – sunscreen, insect repellent, hydrocortisone for the inevitable mosquito bites. I always love this part of holiday preparation. It’s therapeutic to browse the neat, orderly shelves to find what I need while imagining the lovely sunshine-filled break I’m about to have.

Read more: Cheltenham pharmacy made £323k from private travel health service in a year

My latest such shopping trip, taken just the other day, got me thinking fondly of how delighted the pharmacy professionals I know are by the pharmacies they stumble across on their trips abroad. I’ve been to several overseas conferences during my time as a pharmacy journalist and while the location may have changed every time, one constant was the unfettered joy the sight of a pharmacy in a distant land would bring those I was travelling with.

I can understand this fascination. After all, what professional wouldn’t be interested in how their peers from other countries do business? There is always much to learn from our friends from abroad – be that through innovative clinical services or the products stocked on pharmacies’ shelves.

Read more: ‘Why I moved from the UK to Canada to work as a pharmacist’

Former health secretary Matt Hancock was famously a proponent of what he called the “French model” of pharmacy, which he lauded for its focus on common ailments. Mr Hancock’s wishes may be coming to pass. England’s pharmacies seem to be following in the footsteps of their Gallic neighbours, with the government pumping an as-yet unspecified chunk of a £645 million funding pot into a national Pharmacy First scheme.

While there certainly is much to be gained from keeping an eye on international pharmacy practice, I believe that pharmacists from overseas could stand to benefit just as much from observing the passion of UK pharmacy teams. Don’t get me wrong, our model definitely has its flaws, as any contractor struggling to make ends meet will tell you. But one look at C+D’s Above and Beyond entries – where readers can vote for their favourite story of pharmacy professionals going the extra mile for patients – shows me that the essence of UK pharmacy is still alive and kicking.

Read more: Who gets your vote? Meet the pharmacy professionals going the extra mile

Whether they’re making life-saving interventions or doing their bit for charity, all of our shortlisted teams and individuals have shown just how invaluable they are to their local communities. It is truly humbling to read the entries, and I do encourage you to cast your vote.

So while I’ll likely nose around a Hungarian pharmacy while I’m away, I’ll be keeping thoughts of our Above and Beyond shortlist and the thousands more compassionate, hard-working pharmacy professionals like them firmly in mind.

For as beneficial as an international outlook undoubtedly is, it’s true that there’s no place like home.

Beth Kennedy is the editor of C+D

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