Why Pharmacy First is a game changer

by Reena Barai, RPS Fellow and community pharmacist, SG Barai Pharmacy

I’m delighted to be able to offer the Pharmacy First service to my community from today. I’ve been waiting a long time to be able use my diagnostic skills in a more formal way and this service will enable me to do just that.

About six years ago I became an independent prescriber, so I had developed the knowledge and skills needed to expand my practice, but felt frustrated as the systems and pathways I needed to use them in community pharmacy just didn’t exist.

I think Pharmacy First is a game changer for community pharmacy teams, and now I just want to get going with it!

Coping with workload

Pharmacy First is exciting but daunting at the same time. It’s important to extend the care we offer to our patients so they get timely care and advice. I feel we’ve often had to refer people on when I know I could have dealt with their condition if I’d had the powers to do so.  

Due to a wide variety of pressures the day job is so much harder than it was say 10 years ago. I think pharmacies need to be pragmatic and take a leaf out of GP practice books by allocating sections of the day to delivering the service, so we have time for our other responsibilities too.

We’re very much going to have to feel our way as we can’t predict demand. The unknown always feels a bit daunting, but I feel positive about what our team can offer, whilst maintaining our focus on the safe supply of medicines. It’s vital teams find ways to cope, otherwise we’ll add to already high levels of burnout in the profession.

Professional development

Whilst the seven conditions that comprise Pharmacy First are familiar to pharmacy teams, I took the view that we should do all the training that’s out there.

Any training is beneficial, and you will always pick up nuggets that may change your practice. So we did the self-assessment, the CliniSkills training and used the useful resources section on the CPPE site as well as having in-house meetings to help us operationalise the service.

The more cases we see, the more confident we will become and in the beginning, we will be honest with patients that come in that the service is new and we are all finding our way with it.

Shaping the future

I think Pharmacy First will help change the perception of what community pharmacy can do for patients. Our teams do a lot more than just supply medicines, we are highly trained and will be able to demonstrate this further to our communities.

The PGDs for Pharmacy First are very detailed and specific, so there will be times when patients don’t meet the criteria for the supply of medicines. I think there’s a huge education piece to be done around self-care, especially with the signposting and safety netting we’ll be doing. For example, if you teach a mum how to self-care, she’ll take the same approach with her children. It builds a bond of trust as she knows she’s getting advice from a trusted source, right in the heart of her community, who she can go back to and see in person for further support.

Pharmacy First will provide patients with greater choice and give our team the opportunity to further develop their skills. I’m very hopeful it will lead to a change of emphasis in primary care that will make a real difference to patient outcomes. 


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