Your pharmacist is a hidden gem

on April 6, 2017

Have you considered going to your local pharmacist for medical advice rather than your doctor?

When we think of a pharmacist, we think of them behind a till dispensing medicine, but do you know what services they provide?

Birmingham Pharmacist and Independent Prescriber, Hassad Armad made aware that we don’t value pharmacists as much as doctors.

Hassan said:

“We are high street scientists, I have done 5 years of training and studying I know my chemistry and biology is top as I’ve done a lot of work on it so we should advise you and use this knowledge to it’s best ability but often it’s not utilised as well as it should be.”

While pharmacists can’t diagnose all illnesses and prescribe drugs like antibiotics they can still diagnose milder conditions as well as take patients’ blood pressure, provide smoking and sexual health advice, and even prescribe the Emergency Hormone Contraceptive Pill (EHC).

While doctors have knowledge of the human body, pharmacists’ are experts in medicine.

“Patients may be taking medicine for over 10 years but not know what they are taking and what it is doing. Pharmacists in this sense are there to make sure you understand the medication fully.”

However pharmacy is such a broad subject there are numerous illnesses along with numerous drugs, therefore, many have specialist knowledge in a particular area. Some may be lab-based chemists or pharmacy partitioners.

Hassan is a specialist in type two diabetes, and if this is known to people patients with the illness could seek him for help rather than waiting for appointments with their GP.

To become a pharmacist it takes around five years of university study which is similar to trainee doctors however there is often a stigma that doctors are capable of more.

“Pharmacists have to complete six hundred hours of clinical pharmacology and therapeutics compared to a junior doctor who has only undertaken sixty hours. Therefore at times when I have worked onwards, doctors have needed our knowledge to assist them, we work hand in hand. I have build a good a good relationship with many of the doctors around the pharmacy as they often are unsure about the dosage and types of drugs for children which I help them with.”

“Also, sometimes a patient’s condition will be outside of my competency, in that case, I would refer them to a GP, or drugs like Sumatriptan which treats migraines which need to be prescribed by a doctor before I can sell it.”

“However, there have been times when the prescription the doctor has given a patient is not right for them, if this instance I would call their doctor and offer my suggestion. However for some doctors, there can be a personality or hierarchy issue that comes into play, as they feel us pharmacists can’t know more than them.”

To see a doctor you need to book an appointment or go to a walk-in clinic and wait to only be treated for one issue only. However, for pharmacists, working within a retail environment, customer service comes into play and with that comes patience.

Pharmacists often work long hours compared to doctors, for example, Hassan works as a locum during the week then Saturday 9am-11pm and Sunday 12pm-11pm.

Hassan said he also goes the extra mile for customers, as when they can’t make it to the shop he personally delivers their medicine to their house.

“I want to make sure they receive the best service.”

With the demand for repeat medicine prescription service, pharmacists are producing trays of drugs rather than boxes.

“For example now if you’ve got ten thousand patients and their on ten items on repeat, every two months that’s a lot for us to check. It takes a lot of manpower and is time-consuming. Patients with trays generally need to take different drugs and on different weeks and days, therefore, we need to make sure they are taking the right tablets as at the end of the day we are liable for anything that goes wrong”.

Opportunities for pharmacists are increasing their position as hidden gems are hoping to be utilised more. Hassan hopes to take his career into a GP practice, he is in the process of organising sessions to prescribe drugs within a GP practice so patients can revive prescriptions from him and not just the doctor.

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