Helping pharmacists to realise the benefits of being in a union and the benefits of PDA membership

In our latest member voice article, PDA Regional Committee Member Darren Powell shares his views on the changing times in pharmacy and what challenges are up ahead. Darren also shares why he joined the PDA and what colleagues can do to help raise the profile of the profession.

Sat 14th August 2021 The PDA

I have been a pharmacist for over thirty years and it has been very fulfilling. I currently work for NHS Digital as a clinical lead. The clinical competency and currency are important to my digital role, so I will never give up that connection to the profession. I’ve been fortunate to have a portfolio career and have gained a lot of experience but community pharmacy has always been the pillar of my professional career.

Community pharmacy is continuously changing, even since my early days in the profession. I enjoy the contact with patients and the public, even more so, as we now deliver services such as influenza and Covid-19 vaccinations and prescription only medicines treatments.

I chose a pharmacy career as I enjoyed the scientific basis to the degree, and the patient interactions were a bonus. My degree experience is a far cry from my colleagues graduating today, I feel the changes are for the better. Pharmacy degrees today are more patient focused and more about equipping pharmacists with the skills they need to be part of a multi-disciplinary team delivering care to patients. Pharmacists graduating today are high calibre professionals with a key role to play in all sectors of the NHS.

The pressures on pharmacy teams have been immense during the pandemic. Healthcare changed overnight with the Covid-19 restrictions, and we dealt with an influx of concerned patients who needed healthcare support. They sought this from the most readily available healthcare professional – the community pharmacist.

We have been balancing the protection of our pharmacy teams and the public with new ways of working, dealing with a constantly shifting environment, a huge surge in prescription numbers, along with an increase in the complexity of patient conditions. Most pharmacists have got through it unscathed. For this I think pharmacy should be particularly proud, and we need to remind NHSE and the government just how pharmacists stepped up to the mark.

We are supposed to be in a post-pandemic recovery phase, but the pressures haven’t completely disappeared. I worry about “burnout” or fatigue of pharmacists on the front line. We all need to be mindful of our own needs and recovery time. Our own time is too precious to have demands of employment made upon it.

Changing times in pharmacy 

How patients get access to healthcare has changed, and we need to keep the “good practice” going forward. For instance, Electronic Prescription Service utilisation has increased, and that’s made it easier to manage patients’ prescriptions. Patients have adopted “digital” to some degree, so a video consultation with a pharmacist wouldn’t sound unusual today. Patients have realised the extent to which pharmacists can play in healthcare, and our accessibility was and will always remain a key priority.

Interactions with other members of the multi-disciplinary teams has increased during the pandemic. We worked together to try and find solutions to the problems brought about by limited face-to-face access. We need to keep that collaborative approach in healthcare and pharmacy moving forward.

There are challenges for the profession on the horizon. Post Covid-19 organisational reformation has already changed aspects of our profession along with digitisation of patient pathways. Combine this with an increasing demand for healthcare, and a diminishing GP population – the demand for pharmacists is increasing.

There are changes being implemented to Initial Education and Training and new GPhC standards for trainees are aimed to ensure that pharmacists are independent prescribers from the beginning of their career. This is a welcome move, and the PDA is involved in representing the views of trainees and students so that their voices are heard, and they are supported throughout.

In times of change, we need a broad base of input to the decisions being made. The more diverse the decision-making is, the better the outcomes. The PDA and members provide a diversity of thought and ensure that the impacts on pharmacists are appropriate and sustainable. The PDA is included in all key discussions and has a unique viewpoint for front-line pharmacists, and a strong mandate from members.

Future aspirations

I’ve been a member of the PDA for a long time, my membership started in 2006! The support that the PDA provides for all members is fantastic. The advice for trainee pharmacists, students and prov-regs is essential for a strong and developing pharmacy profession. The commentary from the PDA on current topics and regulatory impacts on the profession is a benefit for all pharmacists.

The PDA is much more than insurance, just look at the PDA website for the resources, networks, education, representation, and commentary for members, all there to support pharmacists, students and trainees.

During my term on the PDA Regional Committee, I want to help pharmacists realise the benefits of being in a union and the benefits of PDA membership. I would like to be there to support members. My future aspirations are, to continue to learn and develop and to put more back into the profession than I’ve taken out.

Pharmacists need to raise the profile of what we do and the important role we play in delivering healthcare. We don’t need to be shy about sharing the good work we do. From my community pharmacy perspective, get involved with local patient groups, speak to small groups about your work and how it improves the health of the local population. Speak to Primary Care Network pharmacists, or your GP Pharmacist colleagues, share ideas about how you can work together. Social media provides many opportunities to engage with other pharmacists and different parts of the healthcare sector. There are also many opportunities within the PDA to network.

Remember whatever you do, don’t be disheartened when it seems people aren’t listening. Keep that passion burning. I’d suggest you look at Simon Sinek’s book “Start with Why” if you want a compelling story to share with others. When asked if I would encourage pharmacists to get involved with the PDA, from student, trainee to pharmacists in any sector, I would say this is a no-brainer, yes!

Darren Powell, Community Pharmacist and PDA Regional Committee Member

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