The impact that Runa Salim has had on the development of pharmacist-driven patient care is undeniable. Since founding the Clinical Pharmacist Academy, a training organisation for pharmacists and pharmacy technicians in general practice, in 2020, she has empowered more than 1,500 professionals to deliver high-quality care, while raising awareness of the role of pharmacy in the NHS and bolstering the reputation of the profession.
However, in 2018, Salim was in an early cohort of pharmacists working in general practice. This was a fairly new role at the time, with most GP surgery staff having no idea about the skills and knowledge pharmacists could bring to their team. While it did mean that Salim could carve her own path, focusing on respiratory care by offering asthma and COPD reviews, she says it was also like being thrown in at the deep end without any support.
“I realised there was a real gap in the market, pharmacists didn’t know what to do and GPs didn’t know what they were capable of,” she says, adding that she had been training pharmacists locally anyway, so she decided to develop a more structured training programme, which is how the Clinical Pharmacist Academy was born.
The academy’s clinical pharmacist accelerator programme, which provides the foundational knowledge to work in general practice, was the first on offer and it has since become its most popular programme used by over 500 pharmacists so far, Salim says. “A lot of primary care networks and federations use that as the induction programme for their pharmacists.”
Since then, the academy has developed a clinical medication review series, which covers 16 chronic conditions. And over the past four years, they have developed over 50 training programmes.
One of the most important tools that she has been involved in developing is the self-assessment tool, which provides pharmacists with a report to help identify their knowledge gaps and training needs. “We make recommendations on how they can upskill themselves,” she says. “It’s really useful to know what level you’re currently at and how to progress.”
Salim also set up ‘Clinical Pharmacist Solutions’, a clinical services provider to more than 130 GP surgeries, providing services such as structured medication reviews, discharge letter processing and minor illness clinics. The service, which has Salim as the clinical lead, has around 70 pharmacists and pharmacy technicians providing support for GP practices.
As part of Clinical Pharmacist Solutions, Salim hosts a fortnightly podcast discussing issues facing pharmacists. Between this and the service’s Telegram network, which now has 1,000 members, Salim has built vital connections between pharmacists.
“A lot of pharmacists are working in isolation or working remotely and don’t have a supportive clinical network around them. We have several queries on there a day that can be answered by experienced pharmacists.”
Having worked in community pharmacy since 2012, Salim gets the most out of her job when she’s developing and delivering patient-facing services, such as medicines reviews, Salim still has a clinical role in GP practices as part of her business on two days per week, where she deals with minor illness and chronic disease management. Not only does she think it’s important to keep her hand in, she says it also helps to give her ideas for new training programmes to develop through the academy.
Outside of work, Salim still manages to find the time to home-school her two children, aged 10 and 7 years, something the family started to do during the pandemic and realised it suited them well. “You do have your time with them but getting them to become independent learners as well is important. I work from home so we just fit it in.” The children are also free to pursue what they’re interested in. In terms of her own hobbies, she says kickboxing has kept her sane over the past couple of years.
Next, Salim plans to branch out into the private sector by having Clinical Pharmacist Solutions offer its own services to patients, for which it will be going through Care Quality Commission registration.
The hard work is all worthwhile when she gets feedback from those who have changed careers thanks to her help, most recently at The Pharmacy Show, held in Birmingham on 15–16 October 2023. “I had quite a few people come up to me to say, they had listened to my podcasts or used my resources and that helped them get into the sector,” she says. “It’s really humbling and it’s something that really keeps me going.”
“I especially liked the Clinical Pharmacist Telegram Network for peer support.”
“Runa is an accomplished clinical lead pharmacist and the visionary founder of the Clinical Pharmacist Academy… her influential pharmacy podcast resonates deeply with its audience, profoundly shaping the career decisions of countless UK pharmacists.”
- Meet the rest of The Pharmaceutical Journal’s Women to Watch 2023 here