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Pharmacists storm the media

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Since I completed my final yearresearch project, life has become one long revision session.Occasionally, however, I do browse my twitter feed, read my emails,catch bits of the news and talk to people outside of my house/the library.Today, on doing so Ifaced bombardment from every angle about a report on prescribing errors,published today by the GMC. Sources from my Dad (who dropped me an email this morning while I was still sleeping) to BBC news have been informing me throughout the day that pharmacy 'heroes' are hitting the headlines for their vitalrole in patient safety and medicines management.

The long and short of it can beexplored via PJ Online News and the RPS website, which has links to various television news itemsincluding pharmacist interviews - definitely worth a listen!

The upshot is that recent GMC researchshows that 1 in 6 prescriptions given to patients contain errors- ranging fromminor details to severe clinical errors. Although I'm told I can expect to seesome prescribing howlers in the real world (when I eventually get there!) I know that the vast majority of prescribers do a brilliant job. Thesefigures sound bad, but we must recognise that doctors are human too, andthe ones trained to be experts in medicines...Since checking prescriptions forclinical accuracy and appropriateness for specific patients at the point ofdispensing is traditionally the bread and butter of pharmacy, this news is goodpublicity for a profession traditionally overlooked.

So, its time to get in there, right?Time to cut the nonsense about giving pharmacists a bigger role to play throughclinical commissioning groups. It's certainly true that the world needs to know whatpharmacists do, but I think at times, that the profession can be guilty of'bigging itself up' in the wrong way. We're tempted to look at the bigpicture, and any changes that pop up, in light of how the world percieves therole Pharmacy has to play. The real question, however, is not 'what do people think that we do?' but 'what will we actually do?'.

Neal Patel, a pharmacist and Head ofRPS Communications, spoke to BBC News this morning, suggesting amuch needed focus shift for pharmacists; away from simply driving down the costof medicines and towards collaborating with GPs to optomise prescribing for thebenefit of patients. I've even heard the radical suggestionthat an 'in-house' pharmacist in every GP practice would be beneficial tohelp patients get the best from their medicines.

It's a wild idea to bethrowing around in public, particularly in light of the currentpolitical climate, but collaborative working is a great idea - it doesn'ttake four years of university to work that out!

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