The roles of a pharmacist in the UK differ from those in other countries around the world. In this article, you will read about the main responsibilities, requirements, and skills of a pharmacist as defined by the NHS and General Pharmaceutical Council, and the roles in a hospital and commercial pharmacies in European countries compared to the USA, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. In the second part, we provide a summary of the personal experience of Katie Booth, interviewed by Virginia Allum in the webinar. They discussed Katie´s career path, the roles she accepted, and her reflections on how a pharmacist-patient relationship and the language they use have changed in recent years.
The Roles of a Pharmacist in the UK
In the UK, a pharmacist can work in several types of settings: a community pharmacy, a hospital, primary care including general practice, academia, and the pharmaceutical industry. The career path of a registered pharmacist can lead to positions such as a team manager, national/regional manager, pharmacy consultant, continuous professional development (CPD) lecturer, military pharmacist, veterinary pharmacist, and others.
Generally, a pharmacist is responsible for providing the patient with accurate instructions on how to take medication, including the dosage, frequency, and quantity. They answer questions about side effects, contraindications, and other concerns a patient may have, but also ask questions to find out a patient´s condition in order to be able to recommend the most appropriate over the counter (OTC) medicine. Furthermore, a pharmacist should be able to educate patients on living a healthy lifestyle and can provide services such as measuring blood pressure.
Regardless of the environment in which a pharmacist works, they must meet and follow the standards established by the General Pharmaceutical Council. According to the Standards for Pharmacy Professionals, the pharmacy professionals must: 1) provide person-centred care; 2) work in partnership with others; 3) communicate effectively; 4) maintain, develop and use their professional knowledge and skills; 5) use professional judgment; 6) behave in a professional manner; 7) respect and maintain the person´s confidentiality and privacy; 8) speak up when they have concerns or when things go wrong; 9) demonstrate leadership.
The Roles of a Pharmacist around the World
Garattini et al. (2020) describe roles of hospital and community pharmacists, discuss the issue of allowing hospital pharmacists to prescribe medication, and compare marketing strategies of commercial pharmacies in countries such as the USA, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Ireland, England, the Netherlands, Italy, France, and Spain. In brief, they suggest that hospital pharmacists could strengthen their role by specializing in specific therapeutic areas of expertise. Regarding community pharmacies, they support a systematic regulation for remuneration of both drug delivery and additional clinical services and shortening the length of university education to three years in order to graduate as a community pharmacist.
In their other article (Garattini et al., 2018), they compare the education required to be awarded the specialization of a hospital pharmacist in the countries such as Norway, Germany, Finland, Austria, Portugal, the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Italy, and France. They discuss arguments for and against a hospital pharmacist being able to prescribe medication. They argue that the main trend should be a shift from a pharmacist dispensing medication to a pharmacist providing clinical pharmacy services, shifting the focus from the product-oriented approach to the patient-oriented.
A Personal Story
Katie Booth has a lot of experience in the field of pharmacy. She has worked as a pharmacist in various pharmacy chains, a community pharmacist and a clinical pharmacist, and also performed some management roles. Recently, she has started working for Cambridge University Press & Assessment where she deals with assessing communication skills of English-speaking pharmacists.
In the webinar, Katie describes her communication skills and provides examples of language she uses when she gives recommendations for medication and other products, instructions on taking medication, advice about lifestyle changes; building rapport with a patient to find the most appropriate over the counter medicine for them; checking patient´s health literacy (their ability to understand and use information to make decisions about their health) and providing them with clarification of misinformation. She also reflects on how the Internet, e-prescriptions, and the COVID-19 pandemic have changed the language of pharmacists and patients.
Katie believes that the language used by a pharmacist should be more empathetic and less persuasive. She also thinks that more space should be left for expressing various levels of probability about which medication is the best for a patient in the pharmacist´s opinion, and handing the decision making over to a patient.
National Healthcare Service. https://www.healthcareers.nhs.uk/explore-roles/pharmacy/roles-pharmacy/pharmacist
General Pharmaceutical Council. https://www.pharmacyregulation.org/
General Pharmaceutical Council (2017): Standards for pharmacy professionals. https://www.pharmacyregulation.org/sites/default/files/standards_for_pharmacy_professionals_may_2017_0.pdf
Garattini, L., Padula, A., Freemantle, N. (2020): Do European pharmacists really have to trespass on medicine? https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10198-020-01185-w
Garattini, L., Padula, A. (2018): Hospital Pharmacists in Europe: Between Warehouse and Prescription Pad? https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6103922/