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The award-winning community pharmacist leading the charge for DSPs

PillTime’s senior pharmacist Josh Edwards is proudly waving the flag for distance-selling pharmacies (DSPs), wowing the C+D Awards judges with his detail-oriented approach in a fast-paced environment

With seemingly endless numbers of prescriptions to dispense, clinical wisdom to dole out on demand and the pressures of running a team, it’s easy to become overwhelmed as a community pharmacist. And with crime and violence against pharmacy teams on the rise, as well as a lack of funding, it can feel like a thankless role at times.

So it’s little wonder that Josh Edwards is thrilled to be recognised for the hard work he puts in. “It feels great, to be honest with you,” he says as he takes time out of his busy day to chat to C+D over the phone. “It’s really, really nice to be appreciated for the work that you’ve put in.”

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The senior pharmacist at Bristol-based distance selling pharmacy (DSP) PillTime is speaking about being recognised as the Community Pharmacist of the Year at the C+D Awards 2023 – an impressive feat for someone not yet five years into their career. When he took home the trophy in September, he was then just a year into his role. But Josh was already supporting his carefully handpicked team to provide medicines and advice to more than 16,000 registered patients, with the team processing a mammoth 70,000 items per month. The judges were blown away by his can-do attitude and described him as an “expert on clinical services, with good clinical interventions”.

However, Josh is reluctant to take all the credit for his achievements. “I do think a lot of this comes from our team,” he says modestly. “On the night I was obviously overjoyed to win the award. However, there was always that sense that this wasn’t really just my award…it was something that we did together.”

 

Pulling together

 

Under Josh’s leadership, the PillTime team has grown to even loftier heights since he walked away with his C+D award. Now, Josh says they are dispensing even more items per month – “probably pushing 90,000”. Meeting this increase has had its challenges, but Josh explains that careful planning and teamwork helped PillTime meet these head on. “Obviously the resourcing hasn’t necessarily increased by that number. It’s really around the structure of the team,” he says.

Josh has been instrumental in building his team of roughly 20 pharmacists, carefully handpicking people to work with. He tells C+D that he looks out for “positive” and “proactive” people to recruit into his team, as well as a focus on patients. “Other than that, it really is down to processes and managing people more than anything,” he explains.

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He puts his successful management of such a large team down to delegation. His team has a group chat, and with so much clinical knowledge on hand in one place there is always somebody who can help answer a question if Josh is busy. “If someone asks a question, there might be five different people in that Teams chat who know the answer that can help, it doesn’t necessarily always have to be me,” he says.

Without the traditional setting of a bricks-and-mortar community pharmacy, it’s easy to imagine working for a thriving DSP being rather like acting as a small cog in a larger machine. But Josh’s experience goes to show this is far from the truth.

Before joining PillTime, he had spent a lot of time as a relief pharmacist in his home country of Wales. But missing was a crucial sense of belonging. Josh tells C+D that his favourite part of his job is feeling like part of a wider team. “As a locum or a relief pharmacist, you don’t necessarily feel like one of these shops is your shop,” he explains. So when the opportunity to join PillTime arrived, “he was pretty keen really”.

 

Overcoming challenges

 

No two days are the same for Josh, who says he’s “roped into different things on any given day”. This could be anything from recruiting new team members to liaising with different teams to keep PillTime’s operations running smoothly, or working with other pharmacists on clinical services such as Pharmacy First or the discharge medicines service (DMS).

These clinical services are carried out over a video call, although Josh notes that operating as a DSP means there are “challenges and things we might not be able to do”. But he’s put the work in to form relationships with GP surgeries and other pharmacies to ensure continuity of care for patients. He says: “We don’t have to be the be all and end all but we are able to co-exist with them and help –especially because there’s quite a few pharmacy closures and as a DSP we help fill that gap.”

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One of the biggest challenges Josh has seen at PillTime was ensuring that the vast number of prescriptions the team had to dispense just before Christmas were completed efficiently and safely. “As a DSP we rely on couriers and services of that nature, so we had to come together to ensure that patients got everything in plenty of time,” he says.

He continues: “It was always a big challenge that we managed to meet this year. The organisation and the efforts to go into that may not quite be understood on the surface of it. However, underneath there’s a big challenge and a big shift to make sure that everybody gets what they need for Christmas.”

Josh always shows an impressive awareness of patient care and their experience as PillTime’s customers. The business regularly gathers members of its various teams to discuss what’s going well and – crucially – what could be bettered. The team then pulls together to implement those changes as quickly as possible. But, as Josh points out, working in the same office as PillTime’s customer services team, who are constantly fielding calls from patients, means that any positive or negative feedback is often much more immediate than that. “As you can imagine, if someone’s unhappy at the end of thew phone, we’re going to hear about it – we’re in the same office,” he says.

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Josh’s unassuming manner, diligence and quiet dedication to getting the job done make him a worthy C+D Award-winner. It’s clear to see that he has a genuine passion for community pharmacy. “I think it would be tough to do [the job] without it, if I’m being quite honest,” he says. “You take satisfaction from the completeness of a job each day and being able to actually help someone.”

But while it seems obvious that this ambitious pharmacist thoroughly deserves all the success he’s seen, it seems he still can’t believe his luck. So how did he feel when his name was called at the C+D Awards’ glamorous prize-giving ceremony last year? “It was overwhelming,” he says. “It was really joyful and fantastic.”

Even months after actually winning the accolade of Community Pharmacist of the Year, this consummate team player never misses an opportunity to attribute part of his success to his colleagues. As he says: “I like to think I’m good at what I do, but I think I could only do that because of the people around me.”

The C+D Awards 2024 will take place at The Brewery in London on September 19. Could you or one of your colleagues be crowned as a C+D Award winner? Check out all the categories for the 2024 awards and enter today.

 

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