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‘Pharmacists in GP surgeries and the community must be united’

"The government in Scotland has recognised that we can support them"

Community pharmacists must work closely with GP and hospital colleagues to create opportunities for the sector, says contractor Sally Butamol

It’s so important that community pharmacists are seen as part of the primary care network team along with our colleagues in GP pharmacy. We are increasingly doing more work to support our communities. Our roles require us to be working more closely together as pharmacists across all sectors.

Primary care pharmacists seem to have different roles depending on which part of the country they work in, and their skill set and experience. Increasingly in my town, their role is in pharmacotherapy. This typically means that the GP pharmacist supports discharges from hospital, acute repeat requests and medication queries.

As a result of their work we’re seeing fewer medication prescription errors and a reduced workload for us in the community pharmacy. This is greatly appreciated. The role is still developing. We are working closely with the team – including technicians and hospital pharmacists – to look at further quality improvement in the supply of compliance packs.

We hold regular meetings to cement this working relationship outside the workplace, and have developed a supportive safety culture for positive contributions with outcomes that support everyone involved. It is a work in progress, but we are receiving fewer dreaded Friday afternoon phone calls asking us to supply a Nomad pack before close of business, because the patient has run out of medication and was discharged a week ago.

With the support of GP pharmacists and their teams, we have a formal communication process for all medication stops, starts and changes. This has led to a big improvement in quality and a safer culture for all of us involved in patient care.

Pharmacists being either ‘clinical’ or ‘non-clinical’ is an interesting conversation we see all over the press. Of course, I believe that all pharmacists are clinical. Where they are individually in their clinical journey will differ not just in community, hospital or GP pharmacy. Within each working environment their clinical ability will vary depending on experience, qualifications and people skills.

I have been lucky and found GP pharmacists that value our skills and contribution to the public. Mutual respect is always helpful and a must for this new, evolving world of pharmacy. We must not create an ‘us and them’ culture. We must recognise the potential that all pharmacists – wherever they work – have to work to the top of their licence.

We need to be a united voice singing from the same song sheet. We have so much to offer. Using a team approach, we will achieve more not just for the patients, but for our reputation of delivering top-quality clinical care.

The NHS and the government in Scotland have recognised that we can support them with a chronic medication service, whereby we can do serial prescribing and synchronise people’s medications. Without the help of our practice pharmacy colleagues, this agenda would not have been moved on as much, and we are very pleased and grateful for their ongoing support.

The service is a work in progress and with the GP teams getting more exposure to the skills of a GP pharmacist, this is having a positive impact on the skills that community pharmacists use to provide clinical services and care for the public are viewed.

We are also finding that a session a week with our pharmacist independent prescribers, who support the pharmacotherapy agenda in GP practice, means community teams are increasingly being seen as part of the same solution, with similar skillsets despite our different job titles.

This world is changing fast. We need to be ready to be involved, included and have a voice so that we can remain part of the solution in the NHS – particularly in supporting GP time, working to alleviate the burden on that NHS system.

Community pharmacists are stepping up, becoming independent prescribers, developing new skills and creating opportunities to do more for the NHS and patients. But we cannot do it alone. If we can continue to grow the value of pharmacists in primary care, both sectors will thrive and have different and yet equally important roles in keeping the public safe and healthy.

Community and practice pharmacists are both primary care providers and the public needs us all.

Sally Butamol is a community pharmacy contractor in Scotland

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