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The qualities I want in RPS board candidates

Members of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society national pharmacy boards should be capable professionals who are reputable and are willing to make changes for the benefit for the profession. We need our representatives on the boards to make a positive impact on our profession and perspective.

Community pharmacy is at an interesting juncture. Our job roles are evolving, and there are more advanced services coming out. Gone are the days of pharmacists purely dispensing. We need to utilise our resources better, such as accredited checking technicians and dispensers, who play a pivotal part of the dispensing chain. It is similar in hospital pharmacy, with massive transformations taking place in the pharmacy services.

New roles are emerging which were unheard of five years ago, such as pharmacists in GP surgeries, and we need leaders who understand the role of the pharmacist within the context of the whole healthcare system rather than being focused on one particular area.

As my degree course has moved into greater expectations of clinical care we need to see this change reflected in the profession. We need to evolve, and we need individuals who can articulate the changes needed to be the prominent leaders in the profession. As a future practitioner, I need to feel that those elected are capable and qualified to promote those changes. The days of being referred to as clinical pharmacists should be coming to an end. The Department of Health and the NHS need to stop using the term “clinical pharmacist” in job titles. All pharmacists are clinicians practising in a variety of settings. They have all gone through the same core training and are on the General Pharmaceutical Council register as pharmacists with no annotation to differentiate except as prescribers.

As a student, I want people who want the best for my future career to be the ones influencing change. I want the RPS president to engage with students, someone who I can look up to as a role model. I am looking forward to having individuals representing the profession throughout the UK who I can look up to and approach for advice and inspiration.

Junel Ahmed

Pharmacy student

Liverpool John Moores University

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2017.20202612

Readers' comments (1)

  • Whether there’s such a thing as a clinical pharmacist in my view, comes down to whether you define yourself by what you do, or what you did. My philosophy is that clinical pharmacy is a practice, not a classroom exercise that happened years ago so having a pharmacy degree which has some clinical content, might give you clinical knowledge and skills, but does not mean you’re a clinical pharmacist.

    The Oxford Dictionary defines the word clinical as “Relating to the observation and treatment of actual patients rather than theoretical or laboratory studies”. It also states that it comes from the Greek klinikē meaning ‘bedside’ which is where hospital pharmacists might claim clinical pharmacy began. So, my interpretation of this and resulting belief is that to be described as a clinical pharmacist, you would need to be actively working with patients and their treatment. Non-clinical pharmacist roles might include dispensing, academia, industry, QC, regulatory roles and leadership / management roles but that does not diminish or negate their value or mean that these roles do not require or make use of clinical training or expertise. All these roles are important and add a unique value at some stage in the provision of medicines to patients.

    Definitions of a clinical pharmacist and clinical pharmacy are also set out by the American College of Clinical Pharmacy ( and a quick google search and definitions of clinical pharmacy like this pop up: “Branch of pharmacy practice that emphasizes therapeutic use of drugs rather than their preparation and dispensing”. Perhaps not quite the Oxford Dictionary but it illustrates the point which is that clinical pharmacy is about patient contact.

    Next there is the discussion around where clinical pharmacy happens. My view would be that by definition, anywhere a pharmacist is involved in the pharmaceutical care of actual patients is where clinical pharmacists practice clinical pharmacy. Being a clinical pharmacist is certainly not restricted to hospital pharmacy and certainly not to ‘the bedside’. The debate about hospital versus community and “clinical superiority” is a pointless one because it is context specific – you just don’t get neonates with sepsis and renal impairment in a community pharmacy or GP practice. What is important is that clinical pharmacy happens, and that it’s done well.

    So why does it matter? The use of the term clinical pharmacist and clinical pharmacy are important to me on a number of levels, not least of all because I’ve had the privilege to be Chair of the UK Clinical Pharmacy Association which counts some of the world’s best clinical pharmacists amongst its members. I'm also very passionate to ensure that clinical pharmacists are also recognised for their own merits, not denigrated to some homogenous nothingness amongst a profession that should celebrate its diverse offering to patients but seems to be reluctant to do so.

    I also feel it is important to continue use of the term to honour those who have laid the foundations for a massively important element of pharmacy practice and patient care, particularly in the hospital setting. These people have taken risks, personally and professionally, overcome inter and intra-professional politics, made business cases and persuaded others to take a leap of faith in order to push the boundaries of practice. Thanks to them, we have clinical pharmacists who examine patients, make a diagnosis and prescribe for them, clinical pharmacists who run clinics for heart failure, rheumatoid arthritis, HIV, renal dialysis, pre-operative assessment, asthma review etc etc etc. They have been able to do this and more because clinical pharmacy adds unquestionable value to patient care. We owe it to the pioneers and trailblazers, the first clinical pharmacists, to keep the spirit of what they started alive.

    Next, there is still a perception in some quarters that pharmacy is just about supplying medicines and not adding value to their use. The use of the term ‘clinical’ is therefore politically and professionally important in terms of ensuring that this perception is challenged, particularly in hospital where clinical pharmacy is now a fundamental part of patient care. Clearly, commissioners are becoming increasingly interested in the medicines optimisation agenda and looking to increase the focus on clinical and decrease the focus on logistical pharmacy services. But that’s all I’ll say on the matter other than, using the right language could well be important!

    And lastly, if you look at pharmacy practice around the world, the UK can take huge pride in its clinical pharmacy services and the clinical pharmacists who deliver them. The roles they undertake are the envy of many countries across the world, many of whom are years, possibly decades behind.

    We should celebrate why we do it, what we do and how we do it and, most importantly, we should be proud of our clinical pharmacists. I know I am.

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