Let's look forward with optimism

I don’t know if it is because I am getting older, but it seemed to me to have been an extremely long winter, and a pretty gloomy one for community pharmacy. But the sun has finally come out, and there are clear signs of spring in my garden.

The green shoots of recovery were late this year – but I would like to look forward with some optimism.

I recently presented to the annual BPSA conference, held at Keele University. This event always fills me with optimism and enthusiasm for the future of our profession, of which I am so proud. Standing in front of a room of 200 pharmacy students – ranging from first year students through to newly qualified postgraduates – I was so impressed, not only with their academic skills, but also their extensive knowledge of clinical pharmacy.

I do believe that specialist clinical expertise may be the key to the future of the extended role of community pharmacy.

This made me think back to my undergraduate days for a minute. There were no computers, and we had to prepare mixtures, put them in bottles closed with corks and present them with handwritten labels. Readers practising during this time will recall the bottles were neatly wrapped in white demye and often closed with sealing wax. We used to call it ‘secundum artem’.

However, one area that was not covered on my university course back then was clinical pharmacy. Of course, I do not demean this – I have the highest regard and gratitude for my lecturers, they helped me to qualify for a professional career which has been fulfilling and provided a good living for my family.

Recognising our contribution

I also like to think that I have helped many patients over the years with advice and reassurance; not only about their medicines, but also about their general health and wellbeing.

This is the social function, which I refer to frequently in this column, but it is still not always recognised by our wider stakeholders. Of course, quite rightly, our profession has evolved.

The one thing that we all have in common with these wonderful young pharmacists is that patient care is at the centre of our training and our daily professional practice. The students that I met are more than equal to these changes and I am confident that our profession is safe in their hands.

In response to one of the questions I was asked: “What is the most important thing for me to think about?” my reply was: “You all have to fight to ensure that pharmacy remains an integral part of the medicines supply chain – the relationship between the pharmacist and the patient is sacrosanct.” I think that this is such an important point.

Once again I saw much interest in the Future of Pharmacy Student Award, run in association with the BPSA and Alliance Healthcare. The topic this year was “How can digital technology help community pharmacy in the future?” I am involved with the judging of the competition and I look forward to receiving some excellent entries (as always) from the very pharmacists who will be involved in the seismic changes that will impact upon our profession in the coming years.

New thinking for pharmacy

Mike Smith of Alliance Healthcare

I close by referring to the European Pharmacists Forum (EPF) excellent white paper titled ‘The role of pharmacy in supporting the public’s health’, which discusses five key headline areas: medicines adherence, vaccinations, screening, self care and disease prevention.

In my opinion, these areas are not a bad starting point to reflect on our new thinking.

The topic for the next meeting in June is ‘pharmacogenomics’, signalling to me that the old days are gone – as is the old thinking. These are certainly topics that should drive our strategy (and those of our leaders) going forward.

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