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Celebrating the stars of pharmacy: I Love My Pharmacist judging day

The awardees of the 2016 'I love my pharmacist' competition

Source: Nadia Attura

The six regional winners collect their awards, from left to right: Kantilal Agravat, Francisco Alvarez, Olutayo Arikawe, Kate Thomas, Zafar Khan and Naseem Sadiq

Now in its third year, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s (RPS) ‘I Love My Pharmacist’ award provides a refreshing opportunity to reflect on the positive work pharmacists are doing across Great Britain.

The aim of the competition is to find the nation’s best loved pharmacist; the unsung hero who does exceptional work every day and deserves to be recognised for it.

For the first time in 2016, members of the public were able to nominate their favourite pharmacist, as well as pharmacists putting themselves forward. Some 67 entries were received and these were initially narrowed down by the I Love My Pharmacist judging panel to 23 standout individuals across England, Scotland and Wales. Then, over six weeks of voting, the public chose their favourite from each of the six regional divisions: Scotland, Wales, Northern England, Southern England and the Channel Islands, Midlands and East, London and Kent.

The judging panel, who decided on the overall winner, included: Martin Astbury, RPS president; Neal Patel, RPS head of corporate communications; Tony Scully, managing editor of The Pharmaceutical Journal; Ruthe Isden, health influence improvement director at Age UK; Natalie Healey, senior editor at NetDoctor; and Emily Rose, I Love My Pharmacist winner 2015.

All of the regional winners were community pharmacists. However, each one was notable for very different initiatives and work within their respective communities. At the final judging day on 9 September 2016 they each gave a ten-minute presentation to give the judges an overview of how they go the extra mile to provide high-quality care to their communities.

Naseem Sadiq has worked for ten years at Dears Pharmacy in Glenrothes, Scotland. He divided his presentation into the key areas that he felt were central to his pharmacy. This included communication and cross sector working, which linked to a GP referral form that Sadiq developed to enable pharmacists and doctors to communicate with each other in a professional capacity. Sadiq demonstrated how the referral system has enabled an audit trail to be built up and has facilitated a better understanding between the two professions.

You don’t want to give medication blindly — you want to give a lifetime of care

Another area was public health, which connected to Sadiq’s pharmacy’s success with smoking cessation. He said that Dears Pharmacy’s smoking cessation service was rated joint top in Fife based on the number of patients consequently giving up smoking. Finally he drew on his pharmacy’s initiative with compliance aids whereby his trained technician visited patient’s houses and assessed their need to ensure they were happy with their medication. “Pharmacy care can come to you” he said, while also mentioning that before giving new blister packs he ensured that they take the old one back to check compliance. “You don’t want to give medication blindly,” he said. “You want to give a lifetime of care.”

Next to present was Kate Thomas who owns a community pharmacy in Cowbridge, Wales. Her presentation centred on her work promoting the role of pharmacists in the community through her relationship with the media. She writes a health column in the local newspaper reaching 45,489 households that she said has relevance to all pharmacies across Great Britain, not just those in Wales. Her work with the media was prompted by a 200 sample patient questionnaire and telephone calls with local GPs, which revealed a low awareness of the value of pharmacists and their services in the community. Thomas recounted that readers, including family carers, appreciated the support and information about pharmacy services available in the column. She said that the ‘health tips’ were particularly popular and that since the column there has been a steady increase in patients asking for discharge medicine reviews (DMRs), which she promotes along with the Welsh ‘Choose Pharmacy’ initiative.

The Northern England winner, Kantilal Agravat, started out in pharmacy after his father encouraged him to set up a business, 35 years ago. Agravat bought a bakery to which he joined three terrace houses to form Pharmaco Chemists, where he is still working today. In his presentation, Agravat said that he was committed to “raising awareness of the profession every day”. Like Thomas, he noticed a lack of awareness about the role that pharmacists can play. He therefore started an initiative to raise the profile of pharmacy, through patient visits, regular meetings with GPs and by inviting healthcare colleagues to come to the pharmacy to observe the work of pharmacists. Agravat also hosts medical student placements to help future doctors understand what pharmacists do day to day and enable “closer working with the GPs of tomorrow”. Consequently, Agravat said he has built strong, productive relationships with local doctors helping to provide a seamless service for patients, and raise the profile of pharmacists in the community, aided further by the pharmacy’s networking events and seminars.

Olutayo Arikawe, the regional winner for Midlands and East, runs the Priory Community Pharmacy, in one of the most deprived areas of Dudley, with no full-time GP surgery within a mile radius. During her presentation, Arikawe said that her main aim with the pharmacy was to “see positive improvements in people’s lives”. At Priory Community Pharmacy, all of the work is patient centred with any profit put straight back into further patient services. She explained it was the first pharmacy to submit a partnership proposal to Public Health Dudley to create awareness of skin cancer, a campaign that reached over 1,200 people in the surrounding area. Arikawe is also a visiting lecturer at the University of Wolverhampton, where she lectures pharmacy students on public health topics, as well as giving careers talks. Priory Community Pharmacy has won a number of awards over the years and is continuing to develop new ways to promote public health in the community — Arikawe explained how a fitness class that included pole dancing was piloted for six months in the pharmacy. The pharmacy team recently visited the Bromley by Bow Centre in London to shape their plan for the pharmacy to become a community centre; a ‘go-to’ place for the people of the Priory estate. This will involve empowering locals with schemes such as the “grow your own vegetables” scheme, designed to get people out in the fresh air.

Zafar Khan, from the London and Kent region, was next to give his presentation. Following time in hospital and industry, Khan settled in community pharmacy, where he has worked for the past 36 years. Two decades ago, after reading a report in the Evening Standard that said no pharmacies were open past midnight, Khan realised there was an “urgent need” for a 24-hour pharmacy. However, as he explained, before he could open one he had to consider the security and financial viability of such a project. It took him four years to break even financially, after selling two other pharmacies he owned. The 24-hour pharmacy has since been acknowledged by the BBC, the prime minister’s website (which features an interview with Khan) and The Queen. In his presentation, Khan played BBC footage, aired on The One Show, of his pharmacy showing shift workers, local people and a couple who had just got off a plane and were in need of his services. Interviews with patients highlighted that the 24-hour pharmacy was a much appreciated and vital service to the community.

Pharmacy First is a concept I would like to see developed further

Last to present was Francisco Alvarez, from Southern England and The Channel Islands, specifically the Isle of Wight. Alvarez explained the GP shortage in the Isle of Wight and the fact that 18% of the GP workload is accounted for by minor ailments. “The bottom line is, the NHS cannot afford £2bn on minor ailments,” he said. To tackle the problem, Alvarez championed Pharmacy First, a scheme that allows people with certain minor conditions to go straight to their pharmacist to receive a consultation without needing to visit their GP first. Alvarez explained that since the scheme was first introduced to his pharmacy, Regent Pharmacy, in summer 2014, 1,658 patients have made use of it (562 in 2014–2015 and 1,096 in 2015–2016). The data from the scheme is also shared regularly with the CCG, NHS and pharmacist colleagues.

“Pharmacy First is a concept I would like to see developed further to include more conditions that can be effectively managed by a pharmacist,” he said.

During the presentations the judges scored each of the regional winners on the following criteria: pharmacist expertise; patient care clearly explained; shared findings with the wider team; patient outcomes clearly demonstrated and measure of impact. Those with the highest scoring presentations were then discussed in detail by the judging panel in order to decide the overall winner, who RPS President, Martin Astbury then announced as Arikawe.

“It is humbling to have the opportunity to sit on the judging panel and see all the excellent work my peers are doing and I’m truly honoured to call you colleagues – you are all the cream of our profession but there can only be one winner,” he said.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2016.20201763

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  • The awardees of the 2016 'I love my pharmacist' competition

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