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I’ve become an independent prescriber. So, what’s next?

Taking a minor illness course helped Gurinder Singh take his career to the next level. But once it was completed, which doors did it open?

I thought about this question after practicing as an independent prescriber (IP) for about a year, after gaining a qualification back in 2022. During this time, I was already seeing asthma patients and I branched into different long term condition groups including diabetes, hypertension and lipid management. I found that pharmacists are great and well-positioned to manage a patient’s long-term condition - we can ensure that a patient’s medication is optimised and deprescribe wherever possible.

NHS England’s (NHSE) The General Practice Forward View sought to build capacity within general practices to meet the needs of patients. This was about introducing new ways of working and helping manage clinical demand better. Being fresh from my IP course and having embedded long term condition reviews into my daily practice, I was looking for another course when I noticed a post on social media from someone who had attended a minor illness course with One Primary Care Network (PCN). They had left some very good feedback mentioning how the course had developed their skills in clinical decision-making, identifying red flags, and managing minor illness presentations.

Read more: How Pharmacy First allowed me to save a patient from waiting at A&E

Hearing about this, I decided to enrol, and boy was I glad I did! At the same time, there was news circulating that a new service, what we now know as Pharmacy First, would be launched into community pharmacy. The service would improve patient access to primary care and it would involve community pharmacists to see patients who are acutely unwell. I thought that the minor illness course would help both my roles as a GP practice pharmacist and a community pharmacist.

I attended the two-day minor illness course in September 2023 and I was amazed at how much new information I had gained from it. The IP course was good in terms of receiving a highly recognised qualification, but this was different. The course was all about how to manage your patients on a day-to-day basis; the practicalities of seeing unwell patients; how to assess them; making prescribing decisions with the right tools and when to onward refer.

Read more: Part one: My journey from community pharmacist to the director of medicines in a PCN

The minor illness course puts a greater emphasis on pharmacists seeing patients with acute illnesses and that comes with a greater responsibility. Although I completed the course and received my RCGP accredited certificate, it wasn’t the end. One PCN has continued to provide me with mentorship over the last few months, including on difficult patient scenarios, and gave me further CPD opportunities allowing me to confidently manage minor illnesses.

The course also includes developing your physical examination skills and you are advised to work with a mentor and complete the competency document. The competency document helps keep track of your own learning and it is recommended you complete it with the supervision of a mentor.

Read more: Xrayser: Ready, set, go! Will Pharmacy First win the race?

For those eager to branch out and have another qualification under your belt, I would definitely recommend becoming accredited in a minor illness course. The expectations around pharmacists to become increasingly involved with this are only getting stronger, especially after hearing about the early success stories of Pharmacy First.

Once you complete the minor illness course, you will develop your confidence to assess patients with a range of minor illness conditions of the respiratory; abdominal; gastrointestinal; dermatology; ear, nose and throat (ENT), eye conditions, gynaecology, sexual health, contraception and mental health presentations in urgent care, general practice, walk-in centres and community settings.

Gurinder Singh is a GP practice pharmacist, community pharmacist and lecturer in pharmacy practice at Reading University.


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