Australian Grace Orr-Young has spent most of her 2023 working at pharmacies in England after receiving the prestigious Australian Health Minister Young Pharmacist Global Exchange Scholarship. Here she reflects on some of her experiences so far
I became a pharmacist straight out of school. I wanted to work in the medical field and pharmacy seemed a good fit. I’ve always been a traveller – I lived in the UK for a time when I was younger – so I saw coming here as a great chance to learn new things.
I like the flexibility of pharmacy – you can do so much with it. You can work in the community, hospitals, GPs or with an organisation such as the National Pharmacy Association. This whole experience has really opened my eyes to the fulfilling opportunities pharmacy gives you, as well as being of great benefit personally and professionally.
I’ve worked at pharmacies in southern England and Wales so far and got an insight into the inner workings of community pharmacy practice in the UK. I’ve become familiar with the medications used, items funded under the NHS, electronic prescription processes, funding mechanisms and clinical services provided in the UK.
I would say workflow between the countries is relatively similar – the main difference is the dispensing of prescriptions. In the UK, prescriptions are often sent directly to the pharmacy from the GP surgery, so there is almost a never-ending supply of prescriptions to be dispensed. This is not the case in Australia where patients physically present their prescriptions when they are required to be dispensed.
One important thing I have seen here, especially talking with pharmacists about their experiences of COVID, which took a much greater toll here than in Australia, is how accessible and important community pharmacists are for providing essential healthcare. During the pandemic here, patients couldn’t see their GPs and so they were contacting their pharmacist saying, ‘I cannot see my GP, can you help me please’. I think the whole experience has underlined to me the accessibility of community pharmacists.
I am hoping to work at pharmacies in Shefield and then north-east England, Scotland and Northern Ireland before the end of the year before returning to Australia. This should give me a good all-round perspective of how community pharmacy works across the UK.
I had the pleasure of attending the World Pharmacy Council Conference in New York City along with delegates from Australia, Denmark, Germany, Ireland, New Zealand, Portugal, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America. I got a rare insight into community pharmacy practice on a global scale. All over the world, pharmacists are growing their clinical role and pharmacies are being seen more as healthcare destinations as opposed to retail spaces. It was also interesting to see participating countries express concerns about common struggles including medicines shortages, workforce shortages and difficulties around funding. Seeing the exchange of ideas between country representatives and the movement towards the betterment of the profession was inspiring. This is a most exciting time to be a community pharmacist.