For many years the majority of pharmacy school teaching consisted of the chemistry and pharmaceutical aspects of a patient’s medication. This resulted in pharmacists who were more likely to spend their time preparing extemporaneous products than talking with patients. In recent years, however, the profession has come leaps and bounds in creating healthcare professionals with advanced clinical knowledge and exceptional patient care. This reform was imperative with the current strain on the resources of the NHS. Now more than ever patients are thinking “pharmacy first” and trusting pharmacists with a wide variety of issues, freeing up crucial GP time and resources.
Being so involved with patients in a more holistic manner has inspired a new generation of specialist training, such as the Alzheimer’s Society initiative to develop Dementia Friends Champions. Also, most recently, Boots has partnered with Macmillan Cancer Support to train information pharmacists, giving patients yet another outlet to approach for support. Pharmacy has branched out to become a profession that is dedicated and closely involved in not only the physical, but also the mental health of our patients.
The future of the profession is bright and the possibilities seem endless. It would be particularly inspiring to see more mental health training of pharmacy professionals. We can become a supportive environment for a range of patient struggles, whether they result from a chronic illness, a new diagnosis or the diagnosis of a family member. We have the knowledge and the resources to help guide patients through these problems by providing information, support and a friendly face. The wide range of opening hours of pharmacies means patients may find us more approachable and accessible, making them more likely — and more comfortable — to open a dialogue with us.
There is just one thing holding the profession back: pharmacy cuts. Pharmacies are the most understaffed and underfunded they have been for decades. With this stifling the environment for growth, how can we expect pharmacists to be able to develop and take on new responsibilities? The addition of a new level of patient-centred care may add undue stress that pharmacists simply cannot cope with. Therefore it is imperative that we invest in the future of pharmacy, not only for the profession, but also for the overall wellbeing of the patients who use our services.
Emma Boxer, preregistration student, University of Sunderland, UK