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Dedication and perseverance: My journey from GP pharmacist to partner

Becoming a general practice pharmacist partner not only changed Shilpa Patel’s career – it changed her life

Being one of the first pharmacist GP partners in the UK, I am often asked about my journey. I started at the practice where I currently work nine years ago and although I was asked to become a partner less than two years after joining, my dedication to the role and perseverance has really kicked in over the last few years.

So in this article, I will share my journey before and after partnership. I truly believe there is potential for many dedicated pharmacists to become GP partners.

Read more: How to secure a job in general practice pharmacy

I was a community pharmacist for 16 years and joined general practice in 2014. There were 400 pharmacists who had been asked to join GP practices all around the country and we were enrolled onto a Centre for Pharmacy Postgraduate Education (CPPE) pathway training programme. Those who were not yet prescribers were offered the benefit of protected time to gain this qualification as well.

We were expected complete medication reviews at most of our clinics, yet what fulfilled most of us was the face-to-face specialised clinics we were entrusted with. My scope of practice was in sexual health, so I was immediately tasked with a contraception clinic and given responsibility of the delivery of travel vaccines, as this is something I had already mastered within community pharmacy.

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

However, neither of these fulfilled me. Around me, I was catching prescribing mistakes and inefficient processes. I approached the practice manager and expressed my concerns. This is where my journey towards partnership truly began.

I learned how to run reports and optimise medications. I researched where we were doing well within our prescribing and where we should be focusing. I learned about income streams and helped increase our quality and outcomes framework (QOF) and locally commissioned services (LCS) revenues, while also improving the prescribing safety in the practice. I showed good business acumen, which I believe I had acquired from working in various community pharmacy settings over more than a decade. 

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

When the two-year pilot came to an end, I was offered partnership at the practice. Becoming a partner in a GP practice is a significant achievement that requires a range of skills, knowledge, and experience.

To gain a better understanding of how a GP practice works, I conducted extensive research on financial management, administration, and marketing. I had to balance the financial concerns of the practice with the needs of patients, which required me to acquire skills in both areas.

As a GP partner, I felt responsible for providing high-quality clinical care to patients. I continually studied the latest diagnostic and treatment options, guidelines, regulations, and research findings. My leadership skills improved significantly as I found myself in situations where I needed to inspire and motivate colleagues, make tough decisions, and handle conflicts and challenges.

Read more: New GP contract marks 'another blow for primary care', says PSNC

A GP practice is essentially a small business that requires strong leadership skills to manage the team effectively. GP practices are continually evolving and changing, so a partner needs to be flexible and adaptable while also being open to new ideas and willing to embrace change. On top of this, you need to work collaboratively with others and adapt to different working styles.

Since becoming a partner, I have grown the pharmacy team at our practice to nine pharmacists and four technicians. Each time a GP retires or relocates, we replace the GP with a pharmacist. The additional roles reimbursement scheme (ARRS) funding is used effectively and efficiently, and each pharmacist goes through vigorous training and feels supported and encouraged to be their best. I aim to raise the profile of pharmacists continually as they play a crucial role in improving healthcare quality by enhancing patient care and advising on better medication management.

Read more: How I made the transition to general practice pharmacy

Many GP pharmacists aspire to become partners, but it takes a lot of hard work to get there. Getting embedded in the practice, having a good understanding of income streams and reports, and consistently making an impact are essential requirements for making that step to partnership. By making a difference and embedding myself in the practice, I became an indispensable member of the team and was rewarded with partnership.

In conclusion, success as a GP partner requires not only excellent clinical expertise but also good business acumen, strong leadership skills, effective communication skills, flexibility, time management skills, and ongoing professional development. If you’re considering becoming a GP partner, it’s essential to actively develop these skills continuously.

My journey to becoming a GP pharmacist and a partner was a fulfilling one, and I have a passion for process improvement and ensuring the safety and quality of healthcare practices.

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

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