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World Pharmacists Day 2022: By Sue Lee, Head of Compliance & Pharmacy Superintendent

Sue Lee

Head of Compliance, Superintendent Pharmacist & Responsible Person

I have been a pharmacist for over 35 years and I still consider it a huge privilege.

I was about 16 when my mother tells me I came home from school one day and said to her, “I’m going to be a pharmacist”, and from then on would consider nothing else. I’ve never looked back. I think Mum and Dad thought pharmacists just count pills. They couldn’t have been more wrong. It’s so much more!

In reality, we don’t count or measure out medicines much at all, partly because we have our fellow pharmacy professional colleagues, Pharmacy Technicians to see to this task when needed, and partly because so many medicines are now supplied in carefully sealed manufacturers’ original packs, each complete with a comprehensive patient information leaflet. This sets us free to use our knowledge and expertise to advise patients about how to use their medicines; be they tablets, injections, skin patches, nasal sprays or many other presentations, and get the best from them.

Did you know that to train to be a pharmacist takes 5 years, the same length of time as to become a doctor? Doctors are the traditional experts on disease and diagnosis even choosing a drug treatment plan, but when it comes to dose, strength, form, formulation, and the all-round best way to give and use a medicine, we pharmacists come into our own.

At HealthNet many of the medicines we dispense are very new to the market. Following rigorous testing in clinical trials before launch, I and my fellow pharmacists work closely with the manufacturers to gather more information about their safety and effectiveness through our Patient Support Programmes and the collection of any and all information our patients feed back to us about their experience when taking their medicines.

So much has changed over my years as a pharmacist such as:

HIV, a one-time life-limiting diagnosis is now a condition to be ‘lived with’, not ‘die from’ thanks to the discovery and establishment of anti-retroviral drugs that are taken as single daily tablets.

I am also old enough to remember the birth of Louise Brown, the world’s first test-tube baby. Today, through our Stork Fertility Service I and my fellow HealthNet pharmacists support many couples in their IVF journey by supplying their fertility medicines, the supporting equipment to help them self-inject and which includes our expert specialist support and advice which is at the end of a telephone line without appointment. 

The more I reflect, the more I realise how our homecare pharmacists daily work is only possible because of the work of pharmacists and pharmacy researchers who have gone before:  

  • Biologic medicines for conditions that left people in significant pain and discomfort unable to work due to arthritis, severe dermatitis, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, severe Asthma, painful eye conditions  
  • Anti-rejection medicines enabling many people to live a long-life following an organ transplant. 
  • Clotting factor for patients with haemophilia 
  • Cancer medicines taken by mouth at home to enable patients to live with their disease for many years. 

….and so much more, can now be self-managed at home, and also contributes to improving Patients’ quality of life because of the work of Homecare Pharmacists like us.