This is the first entry in a series of blogs we are calling, ‘Meet the Professionals’ – this is taken from the annual event of the same name, where University of Manchester alumni from various different courses come together to network and share stories from their careers. Our first profile, Peter Marshall, was already a veteran in the world of pharmacy when he began his Independent Prescribing course back in 2015, but that didn’t stop him from wanting to learn more and add even more to “strings to his bow”.
When I came and did the Independent Prescribing course on the very first intake and even though the course was brand new, it was a great experience and it completely changed my career. I was working at a primary care centre at the time alongside nine GPs and although I could sort out everyone’s queries and medicine management, I could actually issue the prescriptions, so it was actually the doctors who encouraged me to take embark on the course.
Opting to do the course at Manchester meant that not only did it fit in with my work at the surgery but also being able to actually come into University twice a month for the actual intensive, hands-on tuition, whilst completing the rest of the programme online. The course itself became an extra string to my bow as it meant I could do much more in my work at the doctor’s surgery.
Moreover, this also meant that I had some continuity with a patient, so if I met someone in the consultancy stage, I could sort out their medicines after discharge from hospital and if something had then changed, I could just issue the medication, blood tests etc. there and then. The doctor themselves found this great as it meant that if they were busy or off-site for any reason, they had a pharmacist that could often sort out the problem, as well as helping concentrate even more on their consultations.
The main skills I took away from the course were not only, obviously, being able to prescribe but also knowing the limits of what you can do: I wouldn’t prescribe for everything and there would be tie when I would feel that something was beyond my remit and so I would pass it on to the doctor – they might even pass it on to the consultant – but 90% of the time I was now able to fill a prescription.
At the age of 62, I have now retired after having been diagnosed with bowel cancer at 52 and deciding another ten years was plenty. The good thing, however, is that because the surgery was so keen on developing that, in that time, I was able to help train and pass the baton on to two other pharmacists – one of which is an old pre-reg of mine – and now they have actually been able to take on more hours since I have stepped down. More to the point, they are now also part of a larger group of surgeries called Modality who have now recommended that each of their surgeries has at least one practice-based pharmacist, so that has been a real positive outcome and helps promote courses like these further afield.
The Manchester course was good because two days in university fitted in well with a full-time schedule and the online material worked really well; the one thing I think people should consider is if they are going to be a generalist in a surgery, like I was, or if they are going to be geared towards a specialism. Fortunately, I feel the course caters towards all fields: there is a breadth of material there, you just have to find what’s relevant to you and you can take in everything if you want to work across the piste.
I’ve had a fantastic 40-year career in pharmacy; 27 of those were in the community; I’ve worked in independently, worked for Boots, a little bit of teaching at Bradford University, and then these final seven years in primary care which allowed me to use all my therapeutic skills. The benefit of modern Pharmacy degrees like at Manchester is that they are so clinical: it really puts students in a great position to understand more about working in roles in surgery and practice.
Make sure to keep a lookout for future ‘Meet the Professionals‘ blogs!