Pharmacy was a cornerstone in society long before the founding of the Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain in 1841. It always will be. Where mankind needs medicines, there will always be the requirement for an expert in them.
Mankind, however, is changing. Given the cosmic leap that has taken place within the past 50 years alone, using the current evidence base, we have to predict what will happen next and this looks to be a complex puzzle indeed.
This puzzle consists of three pillars, each competing for a bigger slice of the pie: business, professional advocacy and the patient. To make this easier, we’ll focus on the UK.
From a business perspective, pharmacy and pharmaceuticals continue to be attractive places to invest. The NHS budget holds this in check, but as the health system becomes increasingly strained, the business case for innovation in healthcare becomes ever stronger. Businesses will continue to adapt, with new ones filling spaces, such as online, quicker than the current chain stores can. The government will utilise the entrepreneurial nature of pharmacists, offloading more and more services to us until a new paradigm is found where it is second nature to see the pharmacist first, rather than the GP.
Professional advocacy today has done wonders for the profession, advancing us forward to fill in the gaps that GPs and nurses cannot. Without a strong professional voice, the profession will be unable to lobby for and meet the business demand outlined above. To support this, the number of pharmacists in the UK will continue to grow, as pharmacy schools turn out more graduates. Fears that there are not enough jobs for everyone will be quashed, as the larger body of pharmacists will be able to advocate from a multitude of arenas: the traditional ones of community, hospital and industry, as well as new ones such as GP surgeries, the media, regulatory bodies and others created by new technology.
Finally, the patient. Businesses and professional advocacy bodies both respond directly to this pillar; as we all know, this is the most important of the three. Crucially, the patient demands better care, and that it be provided on the three NHS founding principles of meeting the needs of all, being free at point of delivery and care being based on clinical need. The measures required for this are unimportant. Patients will become more aware of their needs and owing to its relative flexibility, pharmacy will be better suited to meet them than any other profession.
This will happen within our lifetimes. However, it won’t happen without hard work, strong-willed pharmacists and the spirit of embracing the unknown. With the talent that is currently entering the profession and the continued efforts of those already qualified, I see this optimistic vision happening even sooner.
Trevor Lowe, third-year pharmacy student, UCL.
Trevor’s piece received a special mention in the Preregistration Pharmacist and Student category of our 2018 writing competition ‘Future Pharmacist’. Read more entries here.