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‘Training pharmacists as doctors would create a workforce crisis’

“The distinct lack of understanding about our profession is a big problem”

Plans to offer a fast-track course for pharmacists to become doctors insult the profession and could create a workforce crisis, says Laura Buckley

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

17 Comments

Minhaal Ramani, Community pharmacist

They just said that pharmacists have suffient knowledge to retrain to be a doctor in less time it would take for a doctor to retrain as a pharmacist. What's there to feel insulted?

Leon The Apothecary, Student

Is the usage of the term "fast-track" accurate?

Frank Carter Asante, Community pharmacist

It's great opportunity for pharmacists to have  the choice of fast tracked training to become doctors. Some pharmacists are getting bored and want to be stretched out so that they can offer more for patients and the people of this world. So please let's support to give them the choice and not to put them in one box . It's good for the profession because doctors and pharmacists should all have the same aim...best patient care 

A Long Serving Pharmacist, Community pharmacist

Just because you don't fancy it doesn't mean it shouldn't be available to those who would relish the idea. 
The more career routes that are available the better the chance of finding your own particular niche. 

Muhammad Subhani, Community pharmacist

Very nice idea indeed. There should be no scare mongering. Let the people decide and use their will about what they want to do with their life. Pharmacist doctors will definitely be special in their skills and knowledge. 

Benie I, Locum pharmacist

Do you support the pharmacy apprentice scheme?

Muhammad Subhani, Community pharmacist

Back it with full force. Retrained pharmacists will be very good doctors in my opinion. This scare mongering of work force crisis etc just doesn't make sense to me to be honest. Obviously a pharmacy owner or a stake holder like that would make similar noise but I think it's down to an individual pharmacist if they fancy this nice change in their life then no body should be trying to stop that. I see this article as a one sided story. I think pharmacists workforce is in already in massive and severe crisis due to a stupidly misplanned oversupply of pharmacists. 

Leon The Apothecary, Student

"We are already using social media to fight the misconception that we just "pick boxes from shelves"

Part of this stems from the fact that nearly everything in a pharmacy can be automated because it is mundane, routine work; that is done in the most inefficient way possible.

 

Michael Achiampong, Community pharmacist

I usually agree with your sharp insights Leon.

However, there's a peculiarity about human beings and medicines that no pharmacy robot could resolve so efficiently.

Angela Channing, Community pharmacist

I hate to say it, but in 20 yrs, robots will be picking boxes in original packs and dispatching 'Amazon style' from MFC 'medicine fullfilment centres'.  (Luckily, I will be at home with lots of cats, happily retired, one hopes !!) 

Jenny Etches, Community pharmacist

Pharmacists and other medical based professionals have always been able to retrain as doctors if they can get on to a post grad medicine degree. And if they want to. Back in the 80's I found myself dispensing Rxs written by a GP who had been the year ahead of me at pharmacy school. So it's nothing new. 

, Superintendent Pharmacist

How can pharmacists with low A level grades become doctors? 
How would this be appropriate?
The minimum requirement for A levels must be A*AA to qualify for the conversion, irrespective of having a pharmacy degree.

Who in their right mind would study for a degree in pharmacy in the first place?
Low salaries, treated badly by own pharmacist employers and low respect?
Even nurses have overtaken pharmacists in the pecking order!

Community Pharmacist, Community pharmacist

Pharmacy application requirements were still all AAAs at the time of my University application. You should not have been allowed to do pharmacy if you received low A level grades.

In my opinion, if the profession was united and had any real career progression, pharmacists would be happy with their job.

It is not professional to undermine nurses, as they work hard and have an important role to play.

I do not see any pharmacist shortages, as salaries are not going up. Birmingham pharmacy owners still exploiting new qualified pharmacists at £10-15 ph. If pharmacists move to LPCs or work in Surgeries, it is up to community pharmacy owners to create a more welcoming work environment.

Maybe this conversion is what's needed for people to appreciate what we do and for pharmacy owners to stop taking advantage.

Adam Spencer, Community pharmacist

How would this be anything like the apprenticeship scheme,firstly any candidate will be put through university for 3 years,and will have to pass all examinations set. I'm sure they won't be easy and will be on parr with a 5 year degree.the apprenticeship scheme is just a  cheap and back door way for corporates to train as many ppl to become pharmacist according to their agendas.

I for one am sick of pharmacy and the negative view we have from the public and our pharmacy colleagues,and I think this is a great opportunity for pharmacists who want to move onto a more clinical career

 

Joe Speedo, Community pharmacist

Hi everyone it is not a bad suggestion to fast track pharmacists to be doctors cause it is a great and wonderful news as it shows value of us as who is better to advice on medicine and health other than a pharmacist and to be a doctor is an extra bonus for the patient. This is much better than having an apprentice to be a pharmacist which is more dangerous and absurd suggestion so let's all back the fast track of pharmacists to be doctors and support this good idea 

P M, Community pharmacist

nice to have the option tho...

, Student

Totally agree. Even if you don't want to switch to being a doctor yourself, allowing others the option to fast-track is a good idea.

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