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‘Am I being too cynical about Boots’ specialist practitioner role?’

"The role appears to be a targeted approach to increase the number of services at a local level"

While Boots’ new ‘specialist pharmacist practitioner’ role could help develop pharmacy’s offering, the timing seems a little too coincidental for The Multiple Manager

Boots has recently announced a new role for its pharmacists to sink their teeth into. On the surface, it seems like very encouraging news, but the detail – much like snow in July – is thin on the ground. The role appears to be a targeted approach to increase the number of services available at a local level, perhaps by trying to persuade clinical commissioning groups (CCG) or councils to set up some shiny new patient group directions.

This all sounds very similar to another role at Boots. The ‘healthcare partnership manager’ is a regional role, based on improving Boots’ relationships with local commissioners and GP surgeries alike. While healthcare partnership managers cover a large area, such as east England, it appears that a ‘specialist pharmacist practitioner’ will be confined to a much smaller locality.

Boots, I am sure, are hoping the new role will increase their chances of getting services commissioned. However, it does feel like they may be simply trying to deliver the healthcare partnership manager role on the cheap, by getting their store-based pharmacists to squeeze some extra tasks into their already busy day.

Then again, Boots should be commended for attempting to enhance the pharmacy offering – I am sure that many pharmacists will relish the opportunity to try and develop the provision of services in their community. Plus, if they manage to convince a CCG to add one or two services, won’t this benefit the sector as a whole? While the pressures on primary care continue to mount, this extra push from Boots may even open the floodgates to community pharmacists being truly welcomed into the fold of integrated care.

I have seen Boots struggling to keep pharmacists who wanted to develop their clinical skills. An old colleague of mine progressed through Boots’ ‘advance practitioner’ course, and followed that up by gaining an independent prescribing qualification. Buoyed by his desire to use his newfound skills, he rang his regional services manager, and asked what he could do to put his expertise into action. The services manager paused for a moment before saying: “Well, you could do more detailed medicine use reviews now”. Three months later and that colleague left for hospital pharmacy, disillusioned by the lack of potential afforded to him in community. Maybe the ‘specialist pharmacist practitioner’ role will prevent some of the sector’s most qualified pharmacists from leaving.

Or, maybe this announcement is timed to coincide with the ongoing Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) Union ballot. It reminds me of the last few days before the Scottish independence referendum in 2014. When it seemed like Scotland would vote ‘Yes’ to leave the United Kingdom, the ‘No’ campaign wheeled out Gordon Brown and offered a shedload of treats to convince voters otherwise.

Over the past four months, Boots has not only announced the ’specialist pharmacist practitioner’ role and free indemnity insurance for part-time primary care workers, but it has also offered to set up a joint negotiating committee to convince pharmacists to reject the PDA Union.

Perhaps I am just being too cynical. Perhaps not. We shall soon see.

The Multiple Manager works in a Northern Irish branch of a major pharmacy chain

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