Changes afoot for top pharmacists

Dr Emily Kennedy with trainee Advanced Nurse Practitioner Hilary Clarke, a colleague in the Out of Hours service based at Dumfries and Galloway Royal Infirmary.
Dr Emily Kennedy with trainee Advanced Nurse Practitioner Hilary Clarke, a colleague in the Out of Hours service based at Dumfries and Galloway Royal Infirmary.

Changes are taking place to the way some highly qualified pharmacists work in Dumfries and Galloway.

An increasing number of pharmacists are now training to operate at the top of their licence as ‘Prescribing Pharmacists’ – being given the ability and authority to treat certain patients and write prescriptions.

One of the very first pharmacists in Scotland to gain this authority works in this way within GP practices and also the region’s Out of Hours service, opening the door for more colleagues as part of a drive to build an effective, multi-disciplinary approach to healthcare.

Dr Nitin Desai is a GP based in Sanquhar and also clinical lead for the region’s Out of Hours service.

He said: “We have a number of Prescribing Pharmacists in the region now, and a good number of them are starting to work in GP practices for periods of time.

“This is happening at practices across the region, and these pharmacists are helping GPs to deal with a variety of things like acute medication requests and repeat prescribing.

“Some of them are also helping to run some minor illness clinics or see patients with common clinical conditions which they have been trained to deal with and treating them because they are prescribers now, and that’s taking a load off GPs.

“Dunscore Practice was one of the first to see a prescribing pharmacist working in this way, with Dr Jennifer Dillett running a ‘Common Clinical Conditions Clinic’.

“Dr Emily Kennedy is the first Prescribing Pharmacist to be working within our Out of Hours service, which is based in Dumfries and Galloway Royal Infirmary in Dumfries.

“She has been dealing with medication requests, and patients with conditions that she is familiar with – such as skin conditions, earaches and sore throats. This allows GPs within the service to deal with potentially more complex and time-consuming patients.

“Patients have been very happy with the arrangement, and after evaluation of the pilot we’ve now decided to open up this pilot and offer shifts for other Prescribing Pharmacists to come in and do this work.”

Prescribing Pharmacist Gordon Loughran works in Dr Desai’s practice in Sanquhar.

Mr Loughran said: “We’re seeing an escalation of the work that we’ve been doing. I’ve been going into Sanquhar, helping GPs out, for coming on for three years now, and this started off from work in nursing homes.

“But for the last couple of months I’ve been doing triage work, identifying patient needs.

“So we’ve been building it up, and increasing our time commitment, and getting more involved in helping to address chronic disease.

“This change in our roles is largely viewed as positive within our profession. “There are challenges for a lot of pharmacists getting time to go and train, because it’s quite an intensive training programme.

“But it’s freed us up a little bit, because it means we can take action now and help people in ways we couldn’t when we weren’t able to write prescriptions.”

Dr Jennifer Dillett is a prescribing pharmacist who works within Dunscore Practice.

Dr Dillett, who like some colleagues has a doctorate in pharmacy, said: “It’s good for the health service as a whole, although sometimes people might not realise the full extent of what we can do and the help we can provide.

“For example, very often the best person for a patient with an issue involving medication to see is a pharmacist, as this is the pharmacist’s particular area of expert knowledge.

“In addition, we’re often able to offer longer appointment times than a GP might be able to provide.

“However, you still regularly get people who are surprised to find a pharmacist working in a GP practice; sometimes on the phone they frequently get confused and think you must be in a pharmacy somewhere.

“Many members of the public still don’t really understand about pharmacists now working in GP practices and still tend to have a very traditional vision of our roles.”