Dual-registered pharmacist and pharmacy technician Andreea Blaga had a difficult time finding her feet when she moved from her home in Bucharest, Romania, to the UK. But her tenacity and keen sense of justice have seen her become what her nominator described as the “moral compass” within the primary care network (PCN) team she now works in.
Blaga mastered English at night school and set about finding a locum job. However, pharmacy seemed very different to her experience in Romania and her first role as a second pharmacist in a private hospital was more like an accuracy checking technician job.
“All I wanted was a chance to prove I’m worthy, that just because I’m not trained in this country, I should still have the right to have support. I just didn’t know how to fit into the system.”
But Blaga never gave up. She retrained as a pharmacy technician and, in June 2021, joined the North Oxfordshire Rural Alliance PCN, working across five practices where she is excelling. She knew all along that she just needed someone to invest in her and it would be worth their money and time.
Her nominator says that, in just 14 months in the role, Blaga has demonstrated the value and potential of pharmacy technicians in primary care, helping to cut GP workload and improve patient safety, with her work being shared as an exemplar across the whole integrated care system.
In 2022/2023, the PCN allocated double the resources to pharmacy technicians owing to Blaga’s impact on dealing with hospital discharge summaries, clinic letters and medication queries. The PCN now employs three whole-time-equivalent pharmacy technicians and a trainee pharmacy technician, and they see nearly 30 times more patients than other similar PCNs.
She also led the team in training for the General Practice Community Pharmacist Consultation Service and the PCN now outperforms in referrals, compared with both the local average and average for England, with more than 200 referrals since June 2022 and rising. Blaga’s work is consistently of such a high standard that she is “famous” within and outside her organisation, her nominator noted.
Her other work includes addressing barriers to cancer screening related to health inequalities, quality improvement on the use of direct oral anticoagulants and improving referrals to community pharmacy for hypertension case-finding. Yet, it is how she has shaped the culture and values of the PCN for which she deserves recognition, her team say, by listening to everyone and “keeping a finger on the team’s emotional pulse”.
Just to be nominated was overwhelming for Blaga, who spent so long battling to be able to train and develop the skills she had in pharmacy, but from day one she had an “instant connection” with her PCN team, after feeling like an imposter for years, she says.
“It was the best decision to come and work here. They believed I could flourish. I’m just the seed that has managed to get into the right soil,” she says. But her story shows just how much determination she had to continue to knock on doors, even when they were closing on her, to find her place within the NHS.
Blaga is now also approaching the end of her Centre for Pharmacy Postgraduate Education (CPPE) primary care pharmacy education qualification, a step that will further propel her to great things, her team say. That work includes the support, encouragement and mentoring she has done for the other pharmacy technicians joining the PCN team, as well as inspiring others to take up the CPPE course.
“I couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel but you just need to believe you will get there with some determination.”
“Has proven leadership qualities and champions the value of pharmacy professionals”
“A wonderful role model to the world of pharmacy”
“Notable impact to both pharmacy technicians and pharmacists in their local area”
Meet the rest of The Pharmaceutical Journal’s Women to Watch 2022 here