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Boots' prescribing pioneer is now seeing attitudes change

“Back then nobody believed you could do it. Now people accept pharmacists prescribe.”
“Back then nobody believed you could do it. Now people accept pharmacists prescribe.”

Valerie Sillito became a prescriber a decade ago to "prove a point" about pharmacists' abilities

To celebrate the 10th anniversary of the C+D Awards, we have created a special category for 2017 – and are giving you the chance to pick the winner. Over the last eight weeks, we’ve been looking back at each of the past recipients of the coveted Community Pharmacist of the Year trophy. Readers will then be given the chance to vote for their favourite entry, with the winner announced at the C+D Awards ceremony at Celtic Manor in Wales on July 12.

For the final profile in our series, it's the turn of Valerie Sillito, the first-ever winner of this C+D Award, back in 2008.

What made her a winner?

As a consultant pharmacist in a Boots branch in Aberdeen, Ms Sillito was a pioneer of independent prescribing in pharmacy at a time when few in the sector had undertaken the course. Armed with these skills, she set up supplementary prescribing and spirometry clinics for patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

The three GP practices linked to the clinics credited Ms Sillito with improving patient health, reducing the workload of doctors and nurses, and boosting their QOF (quality and outcomes framework) attainment for COPD and asthma.

Ms Sillito attributed her success to her focus on the needs of the local population, as well as building links with other healthcare professionals. This meant any new services met a need for both healthcare providers and patients. The COPD clinic, for example, came about when she learned that local GP practices were struggling to meet targets because of a lack of capacity to carry out spirometry testing. She later went on to introduce asthma and hypertension clinics.

It’s no surprise that at the time of the award win, one of her patients praised Ms Sillito's “patience and good humour” in helping her manage her condition.

Ms Sillito's top tip

“You’ve got to keep going,” she said, a year after winning her C+D Award. “You’ve got to [have] continuing professional development. It’s not a question of resting on your laurels.”

What’s she up to now?

Ms Sillito has continued her work as an independent prescriber with both Boots and local GP practices in Aberdeen, while expanding her prescribing work into areas such as contraception.

She contributes to the local prescribing course, telling young pharmacists what it’s like to be an independent prescriber: “If I can do it, so can you, that sort of thing,” she says. “That is important.” She’d like to be able to be an official mentor for trainee independent prescribers – but the regulations say mentors have to be medically qualified.

However, Ms Sillito is in demand by people wanting to see pharmacy prescribing done in practice: “I get a constant stream of medical students, nurses and pharmacists. I’ve had a podiatrist and physician assistant. I quite often have people sitting in with me.” She now does four clinics a week, although she’s recently cut down her working week from five days to four.

She also joined the Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s faculty in 2015 as an advanced stage two member, because she “does think it’s important”. “I’m still involved, still promoting prescribing,” she says.

Having originally championed independent prescribing “to prove a point” about community pharmacists’ abilities, she’s pleased to see attitudes are changing. “Back then, nobody really believed you could do it. Now people accept that pharmacists prescribe.”

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Did you enter the C+D Awards this year?

Jonny Johal, Pharmacy Area manager/ Operations Manager

I am interested to know if Ms Sillito ever applied to study medicine? 

La Dakinio, Community pharmacist

Great to hear these stories. I would be interested in how she got buy in from her employers. I have raised this idea with my boss of a large multiple and I was simply told " we don't have prescribers working within our company as part of thier role" - I think I may have had an ignorant line manager and maybe explored above and beyond her?

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