Proposals to retrain pharmacists as doctors have, quite frankly, disappointed me. Had I decided to become a doctor, I would have submitted the application I once drafted to train as one. But I decided it was not for me and that pharmacy was a sector that would suit me better.
The distinct lack of understanding about our profession, recently highlighted on national television, is a big problem. We are already using social media to fight the misconception that we just "pick boxes from shelves".
Plans to retrain pharmacists as doctors not only insult those of us who specifically chose to be pharmacists – rather than opt for it as a second choice, as so many perceive – but also devalue the profession. They ignore the importance of pharmacy in ensuring that patients are medicated safely and that health is managed in the community.
We need as many pharmacists as possible, especially now that significant numbers are transitioning into new roles in primary care networks (PCNs). Many PCNs have yet to employ a pharmacist, and in community pharmacy the supply of pharmacists is already struggling to meet demand in some parts of the country. These proposals will exacerbate the situation if they go ahead. While potentially solving the shortfall of doctors, they could create a workforce crisis in our sector.
Rather than pushing pharmacists into retraining as doctors, why not allow us to fully realise our potential by providing pharmacy teams with more support, staffing and training time? This would make the roles more attractive.
Students training to work in healthcare look to those of us already working with patients as their mentors, and what do they see? They see us being tired, stressed, overworked and under pressure. They see us feeling frustrated that we cannot provide healthcare at the standard we would like to, because we are not permitted the resource with which to do it. They see us discouraging them because the stress is too much to bear and the burden of work is unmanageable.
It is easy to view ourselves as the only ones fighting a high workload, but we are not alone. Our colleagues in other healthcare professions need support to provide services too. The funding that would be used to train existing healthcare providers as doctors would be better diverted into existing services to maximise their outcomes.
Pharmacists are not impaired, incapable and in need of regeneration into doctors. We are sorely needed in the role we already have. It seems to me that we need better workforce planning and a strategy designed to address the issues we all face daily. We have our own niche and we should remain where we firmly belong: as the experts in medicines.
Laura Buckley is a locum pharmacist based in Hull