How has community pharmacy coped during the COVID-19 crisis?


In our first video podcast, we sat down with Pharmacist Yousaf Ahmad. Amongst other roles, Yousaf is currently Chief Pharmacist at Care UK and was also recently appointed to the GPhC Council. We had a wide-ranging chat about how Yousaf has coped with COVID-19 in his current role.


Check out the full interview here


This interview has been published as part of our partnership with the Clinical Pharmacy Congress happening on 20th-21st November 2020.


If you prefer to never miss an episode you can subscribe on your preferred podcast platform. Just click on the links below to get going.


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Has our over reliance on the NHS been to our detriment during COVID-19?


In our first video podcast, we sat down with Pharmacist Yousaf Ahmad. Amongst other roles, Yousaf is currently Chief Pharmacist at Care UK and was also recently appointed to the GPhC Council. We had a wide-ranging chat about how Yousaf has coped with COVID-19 in his current role.



Check out the full interview here


This interview has been published as part of our partnership with the Clinical Pharmacy Congress happening on 20th-21st November 2020.


If you prefer to never miss an episode you can subscribe on your preferred podcast platform. Just click on the links below to get going.


AnchoriTunesGoogle PodcastsSpotifyBreakerOvercastPocketCastsRadio PublicPodbeanStitcher




Interview: PharmaDoctor on COVID-19 testing in pharmacy


PharmaDoctor have been selling a COVID19 antibody test kit to pharmacists across the UK for some time now. In light of the pressure to provide testing throughout the pandemic, we decided to ask the PharmaDoctor team to find out more.


Could you tell us briefly about your involvement in COVID-19 testing? 


PharmaDoctor is the exclusive marketing and distribution partner in the UK and other territories for in vitro test kits produced by Belfast-based Biopanda Reagents. Over the last couple of years, our strategic partnership with Biopanda has enabled PharmaDoctor to supply rapid diagnostic test kits to community pharmacies which are integral to our Test ‘n Treat Pharmacy Service Packages such as those for Strep A, UTI, STI and Flu.


With strong links to China, Biopanda was the first UK company to develop and produce a COVID19 antibody test kit which PharmaDoctor has made available to UK pharmacies at cost:


You can view these tests here.


Why do you feel testing is so important?


Both antigen testing and antibody testing are key to support the surveillance of COVID19 and any future exit strategy which will allow people to get back to work. Antigen tests are essential for confirming if someone currently has a COVID19 infection so that they can either be treated appropriately or isolated to prevent the further spread of the disease. Antibody tests are also key to understand who has had COVID19 and equally important who has not had COVID19.


Both tests are essential to monitor the prevalence of the virus in the community and to understand the true impact of the UK epidemic.


Do you think key workers should be prioritised in terms of testing?


Absolutely. Along with testing of patients suspected of being infected with COVID19, routine testing (both antigen and antibody testing) will ensure key workers such as pharmacists and their teams can continue providing essential services safely whilst providing peace of mind to themselves and their immediate families. PharmaDoctor is also making the test available to other key workers such as care home and GP Practice staff.


What do the results of the Biopanda test show? 


The tests detect both IgM and IgG antibodies to the SARS-CoV-2 virus (COVID19) in human whole blood.


Are the Biopanda tests reliable?


Yes, very reliable.


In general, IgM antibodies appear a week after infection, and IgG antibodies appear two weeks after infection.


The Biopanda test was compared with PCR. Specimens from 70 patients, whose COVID-19 disease status were confirmed using PCR, were tested using the Biopanda test. The results of the IgM and IgG components of the test are presented separately. IgG antibodies peak 28 days after infection but can be detected many days earlier.


IgM Results:


Relative Sensitivity: 85.0%

Relative Specificity: 96.0%

Accuracy: 98.6%


IgG results:


Relative Sensitivity: >99.9%

Relative Specificity: 98.0%

Accuracy: 92.2%


Could they give false results? 


As with any diagnostic test, there is the possibility of false-positive and negatives. This is no different to the RT-PCR test, which is the test being used by the NHS.


The BiopandaTest Kit instructions for use clearly state the possibility of false-positive and false-negative results, as well as the limitations of the test. To address this, Biopanda suggests that pharmacists should test themselves on day 3/4 and again day 6/7 following initial symptoms to limit the possibility of a false test result.


Other than using the test kit incorrectly the most likely reason for a false result will be if the test is used too early and the patient has not yet developed enough antibodies.


Do these tests have MHRA approval? 


The MHRA approved the kits for sale to healthcare professionals on the 5th March 2020.


Does the test have a CE marking and is that important?


Yes, the tests are CE certified for Healthcare Professional use only.


PharmaDoctor is also working closely with Biopanda to submit a further Home Test Kit version for approval from a Notifiable Body so that they can be supplied to members of the public.


Why has Public Health England not endorsed the Biopanda test? 


It is quite right that the government should evaluate all the antibody tests that are available before they endorse them. PharmaDoctor has informed PHE of our supply of the kits to UK pharmacy and offered our full support including the opportunity for PHE to evaluate the kits. Biopanda has also offered to submit their test kits and documentation for evaluation. At the time of writing neither PharmaDoctor nor Biopanda have received confirmation that our test is one of those included in the government’s current evaluation.


What is the process involved with getting Public Health England to endorse such a test? 


At the time of writing, this has yet to be communicated by PHE.


Do you stand to benefit financially if Public Health England endorses the Biopanda test?


No. The test kits have already been approved for sale by the MHRA and PharmaDoctor is legally supplying the kits to UK pharmacies at cost. Any endorsement will not change PharmaDoctor’s strategy to prioritise health care workers and keep the price down at cost.


Have you offered to supply the UK government and how has that gone? 


PharmaDoctor has engaged directly with PHE and is currently approaching the government through a wider group of stakeholders with a planned proposal to support wider testing and surveillance. As yet, no commitment has been made.


Are you currently selling these tests and to who?


PharmaDoctor is supplying the kits to community pharmacies and other HCPs. If a pharmacist or member of their household has suspected COVID19 symptoms, they are required to self-isolate for 14 days meaning the pharmacist is unable to work. The antibody tests PharmaDoctor is providing enable pharmacists and their families to test themselves to understand if they have had COVID19 or not. If all family tests are negative after day 3/4 and again on day 6/7, this enables pharmacists to return to work sooner whilst providing peace of mind to themselves and their families.


Over the last couple of weeks, PharmaDoctor has turned down over £10m worth of international orders for the kits (which would have generated a significant profit) so that we can prioritise the supply of the kits to UK community pharmacies at cost.


What has the feedback from pharmacists been? 


Feedback from pharmacists has been incredibly positive. PharmaDoctor has already begun supplying tens of thousands of kits to UK pharmacies.


What is your overall view in terms the implementation of COVID-19 testing by the government? 


With regards to the PCR antigen test, PharmaDoctor’s agrees with the Governments strategy to scale up testing at pace so that the spread and impact of the COVID19 UK epidemic can be better understood and controlled. With regards to the antibody test kits such as those being supplied by PharmaDoctor, it is correct for the government to evaluate all tests to ensure they are accurate and understand how best to deploy them in the community. It is widely believed that the use of antibody tests will play a critical role in any exit strategy which will enable people to get back to work safely as soon as possible. How best to use these tests is something that will be better understood from any evaluation. Any exit strategy using tests needs to be planned well and delivered accurately with wide-spread reporting.


Pharmacy in Practice will keep you up to date with developments in this area as they happen.




The pharmacy technician who chose another path

Emma Fielding


What is the secret to getting a first-class honours pharmacy degree?


Dedication and commitment! Prioritising, planning and having fun ALL at the same time! Good luck with that because it is a hard slog.


Could you tell us a bit about your pre-registration year to date?


I am completing the GP/hospital split placement. I have spent the first 5 months at a large teaching hospital with 15 other pre-reg students. We are completing a very well organised rotational timetable which has included blocks throughout the hospital sites such as paediatrics, psychiatry, oncology, aseptics, MI and clinical ward time. For the next 16 weeks, I will be based in two GP practices working closely with the pharmacist, shadowing their clinics before (hopefully) leading my own appointments. I will then return to the hospital for the final few months running my own ward, under supervision, which will conclude the 52 weeks.


What is the toughest lesson you have learned in your pre-registration year so far?


Two lessons in particular:


  • The hospital is training us to become band 6 pharmacists – not to pass a GPhC assessment. Therefore additional reading coupled with practising calculations at home is essential.
  • The switch from pharmacy technician to a pharmacist is more than just a title and I am making concerted efforts to think clinically and not technically, which is trickier than it sounds.


Why did you chuck being a pharmacy technician to study pharmacy?


I had worked as a PT in various roles, which back then, the roles were not as expansive as they are now. I, therefore, felt I had reached the limit to the role but I was still thirsty to learn more.


You are clearly capable of studying medicine so why did you choose pharmacy?


I never intended to work in pharmacy and definitely had zero intentions of studying at university. Both ideas would have seemed ludicrous to me, however, when I was trying to leave a job I truly hated I applied to anywhere, my first interview was successful which was a student pharmacy technician. I was fortunate to fall into a career that I loved and the rest, as they say, is history.


How long had you been qualified as a pharmacy technician before you decided to study pharmacy?


I had worked in pharmacy for about 5 years before starting the degree. During that time I had worked in private healthcare, hospital and community.


What did your educational route entail to become a pharmacy technician?


I became aware of a foundation year which was offered to prospective students who had not quite made the entry criteria for the MPharm, however, with my A-Level results I was unable to apply under those grounds. I could, however, apply under the widening participation scheme, using my GCSE results and NVQ3. I was cautious about applying and I, therefore, self-funded a distance learning A Level in Sociology to help gain confidence in studying again. When I completed the A-Level I then applied for the MPharm with foundation year. The first year was tricky because, at the time, all modules and tests had to be passed at 75%. Fortunately, I passed with flying colours and carried on to the MPharm.


In your view what is the difference between a pharmacist and a pharmacy technician?


Aside from stating the obvious, which would be the differences in training and qualifications. I feel the main differences are the thought processes whilst completing the same tasks. Both roles would consider the safety of the patient as the pinnacle consideration, however as a technician, I would be thinking about the item prescribed, is it stocked, where can I supply it from, if not from my main supplier then who…etc. As a pharmacist I consider the dose, is it correct, is the item licensed, do I need to check blood test results or kidney function etc. All members of the pharmacy, are integral in running a service.


You have worked as a pharmacy technician in prison. What was that role like?


During the degree I locumed in various prisons, working part-time during the week and full time during the holidays. I worked in a variety of prisons and the role differed per site. In some prisons I was dispensary based, dispensing items for offenders to either collect daily, weekly or monthly, depending upon their risk status. For the majority of my prison role I was a ward-based technician, I would oversee the medication administration for offenders who were asked to attend the pharmacy department to have their drugs administered ‘in-sight’. I found the work highly enjoyable and I have a passion for wanting to improve the availability of mental health pharmaceutical support.


What did you learn when working in a private hospital?


That private healthcare faces the same difficulties as the NHS, you cannot differentiate between the provision of healthcare from cost alone, the advantages are often due to reduced waiting times.


How do you see the role of the pharmacy technician, in general, developing in the coming years?


I feel the role will expand further and PTs will be upskilled further still, particularly within hospital sites.


Do you feel pharmacy technicians should be allowed to extend their role to become independent prescribers?


I do not feel there is a requirement for PTs to prescribe, if you are asking me about whether IP should be included within the MPharm undergraduate degree then that is a whole different ball game.


When you become a pharmacist do you think it will be important to work towards becoming an independent prescriber?


I do not think it will be long before the IP is either included in the undergraduate degree or it becomes an essential skill for all qualified pharmacists. With the NHS PCN/5 year plan, there is a requirement for pharmacists to prescribe.


You have had a number of pharmacy technician roles over the years. Which was your favourite and why?


I have found all roles enjoyable but by far my favourite roles have been working within the prisons, I have enjoyed the challenges and direct patient care.


What is your advice to pharmacy technicians thinking of becoming a pharmacist?


It is a huge personal commitment but if you have a thirst to learn more and the ambition to return to your studies then go for it !!


Are you a member of any professional organisations and why?


I am a member of the RPS since starting my pre-registration year, initially, this was because I really wanted a hard copy of the MEP, BNF and BNFc. However, the website provides lots of great resources relevant to all pharmacy roles and the monthly PJ has been very interesting.


There are lots of self-declared leaders in our profession. Which pharmacists or pharmacy technicians have inspired you in your career?


Whilst I have worked with many, many, many great people, a locum pharmacist called Kim, who I worked with in a small independent community pharmacy in North Norfolk gave me the confidence to apply to university. Kim was also the kind lady who visited me at home during my first year to explain the basics of chemistry to me, raiding my fruit bowl to model apples and satsumas as atoms and nucleus’. My dear friend Julie, working as a PT in the prisons, inspires me by her constant unwavering support to me and also, her own commitment to her job, often going above and beyond to ensure patients receive their medication on time. Lastly, Debbie, a pharmacy assistant also working in the prisons, has shown me what an integral role pharmacy assistants have, her kindness to staff and patients speaks volumes.


What’s next for you?


Hopefully, I pass the GPhC assessment and will be successful in securing a B6 role, the difficulty lies in knowing which sector this will be in.


You can find Emma Fielding on Twitter by clicking here. 



Interview: Professor Margaret Watson on the life of a pharmacist in academia

Margaret Watson PhD MSc BSc (Hons)



I have interacted with Professor Watson online over recent years so it was a pleasure to sit down with her recently in person. We chatted for three hours. Conversation flowed and the time flew by. Margaret (Mags) has a wealth of experience and has spent the vast majority of her career working as a pharmacist in academia.


I found Mags to be extremely modest about her myriad of achievements. Her work in gathering evidence to prove the value of community pharmacy was an aspect of her career that caught my eye. This is just one aspect to a varied and interesting journey as a pharmacist working in academia in which she has delivered a range of very impactful research outputs.


I recommend any pharmacist considering a career in academia to read her thoughts below.


Why did you become a pharmacist?


I became a pharmacist because I wanted to do something health-related and have a career which would involve helping people.


If you hadn’t become a pharmacist what career path would you liked to have pursued?


Before being accepted for pharmacy, I considered a variety of careers including medicine, veterinary medicine, etc. Latterly, I would’ve enjoyed being a marine biologist. This would have reflected my interest in science as well as my interest in the environment and natural history.


What roles have you undertaken as a pharmacist over the years?


I have had different roles in the pharmacy since I qualified in 1987! The first eight years of my career were spent in secondary care during which time I worked in a variety of hospitals; I also completed an MSc Clinical Pharmacy. I really enjoyed my time as a hospital pharmacist especially working as part of a team and the patient contact. I also undertook locums in a variety of community pharmacies and hospitals during this time. In 1994, I started my PhD in the School of medicine, the University of Bristol and I have worked in academic research since then with different universities including the University of Aberdeen, University of Bath and currently the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, Scotland. During my time with the University of Aberdeen, I undertook a three-year 50% secondment to the public health team with NHS Grampian where I developed, delivered and evaluated a wide range of public health initiatives, most of which involved pharmacy in some way, usually community pharmacy.


Which role did you find most challenging and why?


Each role has different challenges. Academic research is challenging. You need to LOT of resilience to pursue and maintain a career in research in the UK. There is a constant drive for seeking research funding. This process is highly competitive and the need to produce high-quality publications of the results derived from your research is therefore high. I always tell colleagues if you can’t take rejection then don’t do research because research comprises a huge element of rejection! No sympathy required-it’s just part of life J  I thrive on working with can-do people -people who have enthusiasm for their role, whatever it is, and a willingness to help others. It’s incredibly challenging to work with people whose work ethic does not reflect a collegiate, collaborative approach. I’ve yet to work out how to detect these people and avoid them or optimal ways of working with them when we have no choice. I think life is largely about relationships with others that are the most challenging but also most rewarding. I have had the pleasure and privilege of working with some wonderful colleagues over the years, and I hope this continues for the remainder of my career.


What led to your career in research?


My research career started ‘properly’ when I worked as a rheumatology and self-medication pharmacist at Bristol Royal infirmary. The rheumatology team was incredibly research active, and I caught the bug. As a pharmacist, I was used to making retrospective interventions to influence prescribing that had already taken place and I became frustrated with NSAID prescribing for our rheumatology patients. There were huge variations and no apparent rationale for the drugs that were being used. I knew that if I was to influence non-steroidal prescribing with these patients, it was general practitioner prescribing that would need to be targeted. So with the support of Professor Paul Dieppe who led the Rheumatology Unit, I successfully applied for a research and development training fellowship which fully funded my PhD for three years.


The thing I really enjoy about research is identifying real-world challenge i.e. questions, problems, and then devising strategies about how to try and explore and improve these challenges and ultimately improving patient outcomes; that’s the ultimate goal of my research.


What is a predatory journal?


I’m not sure what a predatory journal is!? I had to look this up to answer the question.  I believe that research should be peer-reviewed before it is published to try to ensure that only good quality, rigorous and ethical research is made available within the public domain.


Do you think the impact factor of research is a useful measure?


The impact factor of a journal is constructed from the number of citations of its articles. Some journals have impact factors, and some don’t. Usually the higher the impact factor, the more prestigious the journal. The decision to award a journal an impact factor is complex. In terms of pharmacy, it can be frustrating because I’m a member of the editorial board for the International Journal Pharmacy Practice and it does not have an impact factor despite trying really hard to achieve one. The research published in this journal is high quality and peer-reviewed. And yet we don’t have an impact factor. So this can be frustrating. In addition, even high impact journals get things wrong sometimes e.g. the Lancet and the MMR story. We also know that female academics tend to submit their research to journals with lower impact factors compared with male contemporaries, and this introduces a bias into the process. So, while the impact factor of a journal can be used as an indicator for prestige and standing amongst the academic community, it’s not the be-all and end-all. Some universities will consider the impact factor of a journal for individual researcher’s promotion applications, but this is not the case across all universities. The important thing to consider when looking for a journal in which to publish research is the likely readership of that journal and how relevant the readership is to the research that you are presenting.


Is research governance adequate in the UK?


I think the UK has very strict research governance processes and procedures, the main purpose of which is to protect patients and other participants and to ensure that the research is ethical, necessary, and rigorous.


What piece of research that you have published are you most proud of and why?


I have two pieces of research which I am most proud off for different reasons. The first is a Cochrane systematic review that was published in 2018 on the same day that I presented it at the FIP conference in Glasgow. It’s the largest collection of randomised controlled trials of pharmacist services to non-hospitalised patients that have ever been undertaken. It was a huge effort for the research team which I led and we really needed a lot of resilience and tenacity whilst conducting this review. However, it was worth it, because the results clearly showed the very important clinical benefits that could be derived for patients from pharmacist interventions for some health outcomes such as HbA1C and blood pressure reduction. So, in terms of scale and importance, I’m really proud of what we achieved. A few years ago I led a research program called the MINA Study. Part of that study was to develop, deliver and evaluate a cohort study which compared symptom resolution of minor ailment consultations for people who presented with these consultations either in pharmacies, general practices or emergency departments. It was incredibly difficult to plan and deliver but the results were worth all the effort. The study showed that for people with similar minor conditions presenting in different healthcare settings, their health outcomes were similar irrespective of the setting from which they chose to seek care. In other words, symptom resolution was as likely if you went to a community pharmacy compared with a general practice or emergency department. This study has been used but in some health policy documents to promote the use of community pharmacy for the management of these conditions, particularly during out of hour periods.


Given your extensive research in community pharmacy what is your advice to community pharmacists on over the counter patient interactions?


Over the counter patient interactions are incredibly important. One person who I interviewed referred to them as “the shop window for community pharmacy”. These consultations are healthcare consultations: an individual has actively chosen to seek care from the community pharmacy and buy their products or seek advice from that setting. These consultations are an important opportunity to identify the major disease and refer appropriately, as well as effectively managing minor disease or illness with effective evidence-based recommendations. I cannot emphasise enough the importance of information gathering during these consultations to make appropriate, safe and effective recommendations. Many people dismiss OTC medications and consultations as inconsequential and focus more on prescription medicine services etc.  OTC consultations are SO important and we need to enhance the quality with which they are managed.  The cohort study that I mentioned above provides valuable evidence of how effective these consultations can be and, if we are encouraging the public to seek care from community pharmacies for these types of consultations, then we really need to treat these consultations with the respect and importance they deserve. Yes, this is something I feel very strongly about and I’ve spent years researching to try to improve practice…with limited success.


What was the toughest lesson you had to learn as a pharmacist?


I suppose there have been several lessons learned throughout my career in different roles.  As a hospital pharmacist, the importance of getting things right, avoiding error, maximising safe and effective advice and care is paramount. As an academic researcher, tenacity and resilience when research applications and publications are rejected: when this happens repeatedly it can be daunting but if you believe you are undertaking worthwhile, meaningful research it’s worth the pain. Usually 😉


What is your advice to the next generation of pharmacists?


My advice to the next generation of pharmacists is to remember that healthcare is a multidisciplinary endeavour: good communication and interpersonal relationships with whoever your other team members are is imperative even more so than technical knowledge! Place the patient at the centre and listen to their voice; find out what matters to them. Find yourself good role models and ask them to be your mentor. Be open to new learning throughout your career, actively seek information and intellectual stimulation whatever role you find yourself in. If you don’t know something, ask someone or look it up, or both! In the not too distant future, pharmacists will be defined not by the setting in which they work, i.e. community, practice, etc.; they will be defined as a pharmacist member of the team. We are living in very dynamic, challenging times, so it’s important to be agile in our thinking and our behaviour and our willingness to change when change is required. Pharmacists are society’s experts on medicines –  let’s remember that, focus upon that and help to ensure that the most commonly used intervention in healthcare (i.e. medication) is done in a safe and effective manner.


How does it make you feel being a member of the RPS?


I think it’s really important to be a member of one’s professional body and to contribute to that organisation as well as to benefit from it. Being made a Fellow of the RPS recently was a career-high for me as a pharmacist, as it reflects my efforts throughout my career and the opinions of my peers.


There are lots of self-declared leaders in our profession. Which pharmacists have inspired you in your career?


Many pharmacists and other health professionals have inspired me throughout my career. As a pre-registration pharmacist with NHS Tayside, people like Libby Service and Lucy Burrows showed me what can be achieved as clinical pharmacists and a set me on the path to seeking a hospital pharmacy career. I find many community pharmacists inspiring because of their innovative and entrepreneurial approaches to developing health services. These include people like Ade Williams (Bristol) and Bernadette Browne (Glenrothes). Then there are the educators in pharmacy, people like Dr Philip Rogers and Lyn Hanning at the University of Bath, who work tirelessly to develop effective and stimulating curricula for undergraduate pharmacists and to support them throughout their degrees. In terms of research, Professors Christine Bond (Scotland) and Alison Blenkinsopp (England) and Dr Ross Tsuyuki (Canada) have undertaken meaningful research which inspires me to continue my research career.


What’s next for you?


One of the things I’ve learnt in life is that you never know what opportunities will come your way, or that you will create for yourself and your career. I’m going to continue to build health services research and pharmacy practice research with my colleagues at the University of Strathclyde where I work 50% time. I will continue to grow my consultancy business, Watson Research and Training Limited, by providing consultancy, research and training to and for individuals and organisations who need these services. But one of the important elements of my business is coaching and mentoring and I want to do a lot more of this in the future because this is a hugely important part of enabling other people – pharmacists, other health professionals and academics – whoever they are, to try and achieve their potential. Who knows what else the future holds? I certainly know that the older I become, the more willing I am to take risks in terms of career development and change and to seek opportunities for healthcare improvement, creativity and as well as enjoyment.




Andre Yeung on being on a mission to make things better in pharmacy

Andre Yeung


Andre Yeung is a pharmacist, NHS England Network Chair and architect of the Digital Minor Ailments Referral service. By his own admission, he is on a mission to make stuff better for patients.


He was recently elected to the Royal Pharmaceutical Society English Pharmacy Board. He topped the poll in England with 941 member votes.


We caught up recently to talk all things pharmacy.


What have you learnt from your career progress so far?


“I qualified ion 2000. I started as a community pharmacy business. My father was a community pharmacy owner. I grew up with the expectation that I would work in the family business but that came to an end when my father sold the business in 2006 when the market was riding high. I began working for one of the multiples, became an area manager. I then got an opportunity at Celesio to do a business development role across a number of settings across England and into Scotland too. I worked with some fantastic people. After three years of that, I took time out and did an MBA at Durham. I came out of that MBA thinking differently and started my own consultancy. A few years later I a am carrying out a number of functions. I’ve worked with the NHS, Pharmacy Voice the PSNC and others.”


How did you find the election process and what were the top line findings in your survey?


“I think it’s your job to understand how members are feeling. My role will be to represent the views of the members. I will be accountable to members. I found myself in a position where I started to run but realised how little I knew about what pharmacists think about various topics.


“It was a practical thing to do to find out what others are thinking. I wanted to seek to understand and then move forward and have an influence. It was a very positive experience. Some of the other people were gracious enough to give me a pat on his back too.”


There were no hustings so was this the easiest year ever to get elected?


“I genuinely don’t know. I don’t know why that was but to be honest I wasn’t sure if that would have been beneficial for me because understanding what pharmacists are thinking rather than broadcast. I hope to contribute by helping my board colleagues set the tone for the organisation and hopefully influence positive change in pharmacy. I’m looking forward to working with fellow board members and the executive team”


What is your key objective for your time on the board?


“I have always been outward looking. Many pharmacists, ourselves included are in business and the market is constantly changing. I’m slightly obsessed with making sure I serve members as best as I can. I hope to be an outward-looking board member who can stay in touch with members. I hope this will give me a mandate and empower me to some really great stuff for members and the profession and the RPS.”


Is there a dearth of leadership in pharmacy at the moment and does this drive negative narratives in the media?


“I think it would be remiss not to recognise the fact that in community pharmacy especially things have been tough for a long time now. As someone speaking to community pharmacies on a daily basis we have to recognise the last few years have been difficult for everyone. Therefore it is a trend and I do observe it offline too. Like all humans we affected by the environment we operate in especially for business owners. It doesn’t give a lot of opportunity for positivity int he wider profession.


“In terms of vision and strategy over the last five years, people inside and outside community ask me ‘what is the vision?’ so I agree there is an issue there. Maybe the narrative is changing due to recent changes.”


Do we need to imagine community pharmacy in a post-NHS era?


“I think I have a different opinion to you. In England community pharmacy I am seeing green shoots. Im seeing signs of things that give me reasons for hope. The tone of the conversation is changing behind the scenes. I definitely see, through projects I’m involved in, opportunities for the future. The Long-term plan is critical and community pharmacy are mobilising to take advantage of these


What is the digital minor ailments referral service?


“This is a service that I’m involved in that was developed through help from NHS England in the North East of England. We were lucky enough to get an opportunity in the North East around an idea to refer patients from NHS 11 to community pharmacy. I think to date we have had 25,000 patients referred through that channel. It is a service around which enthusiasm has grown around it. It is something that community pharmacy is offering that no-one else can.


“We have similar projects starting elsewhere in the country and I think this is great. The vast majority of community pharmacists are deeply enthusiastic about this type of clinical role. The digital minor ailments service already involves lots of things community pharmacists are doing already.


“If you take the digital minor ailments referral service you get patients referred to community pharmacy to have a proper consultation. Medicine is a really important tool in our armoury, you want training and some equipment. I think independent prescribing is part of our future but I think we need to work out how we get there. I think it’s an evolution. It is a huge investment.”


Have you got any outcomes to report from this service?


“We’ve got lots of information. The service is safe. The pharmacists are doing a great job. Patients love it. And we have been able to scale activity. It is important that the service joins up activity with other areas of the system like NHS 111. It is shifting the patient expectations of what a community pharmacist should be doing and how community pharmacists are perceived.”


Andre also joined us recently on the podcast. Click here to listen to the full conversation.