Hospital pharmacists do clinical work on wards, check the safety and efficacy of prescriptions. But pharmacist Sandra Melville warns that the shortage of hospital pharmacists could put patients at risk.
What do you think? Here are some of the comments you have been sending in to this week's Scrubbing up.
As a final year pharmacy student based at The Medway School of Pharmacy, I am excited to be starting my training this year at a London hospital. There are differences in salary at the band 6+ level, however there is more satisfaction as the role of the hospital pharmacist is inherently clinical. Hopefully the role of the pharmacist will continue to develop and expand, to ensure that patients fully benefit from pharmaceutical care. There would be less vacancies if the salary were to increase, though this seems unlikely considering the current economic climate.
Maj, Medway, Kent
As a pharmacy student, I feel obliged to highlight an issue which has been neglected in the press. Many pharmacy students come from overseas, particularly China, and usually do want to work here after graduation. However, while hospital pharmacy has remained on the list of shortage occupations for immigration to the UK, community pharmacy has been taken off the list. This means that almost all overseas students (barring those with UK/EU citizenship) will need to go into hospital pharmacy rather than community pharmacy, as they would be ineligible to live here as a pre-registration community pharmacist. Pre-registration places have low wages, so they also cannot attempt to qualify as a high-income immigrant. Over the next few years, this could make a significant difference to numbers of hospital pharmacists.
Jenna Power, Bath
I am a hospital junior doctor and I must say that hospital pharmacists do an absolutely vital job. I certainly have had experiences where the pharmacist has corrected me on a drug dose or told me of medication the patient should be on. Without them, there would no doubt be a massive rise in drug errors and clinical incidents.
As for how much they get paid, a close friend of mine is coming to the end of his pre-registration year and despite the fact he has stated his desire to work in hospital, he has decided to stay within the community purely for financial reasons. I think there needs to be ways to make the job more attractive or appealing to newly qualified pharmacists who are not simply interested in money.
Khaled Latif, Birmingham
I will soon start my pre-registration training within a hospital in August 2010. After this mandatory year of training I hope to have a very rewarding career and although the opportunity is there to continue within hospital I am not sure if I will be continuing once I qualify. The gap between community and hospital is huge but in my opinion job satisfaction and career prospects are greater in hospital.
David Preece, Reading
I was recently waiting at a hospital for a drug that could only be prescribed under special circumstances, and which was a repeat prescription. I saw instantly that the dosage being given was incorrect, and was told that that was what the doctor had prescribed. I strongly questioned this and the pharmacist very grudgingly checked the past records. Yes I had been given the wrong dose, but 'never mind' it was a clerical error. I went to complain to the liaison office as I felt that if that was the standard then other patients would certainly be at risk. The liaison office said they couldn't do anything as I had finally been given the correct medication.
Jackie Worrow, London
I agree with much of what Sandra says, but having worked as a hospital pharmacist since 1973 it is clear that increasing salaries in the hospital sector doesn't work - the community sector simply increases salaries to maintain the differential. And this seems to be the main issue - whilst appropriately utilising the skills of pharmacists and pharmacy technicians is obviously desirable - this alone will not have much impact on recruitment, as Sandra illustrates clearly with her examples of students who have chosen their career path on the basis of financial considerations alone. Whilst fully understanding such concerns in the days of student loans and other debts that need repaying, during a 40-year working life each of us will spend something like 8,800 days at work - so choose something that challenges and stimulates!
Nigel Ballantine, Birmingham
I agree heartily with this article, as a ward-based nurse, we rely very heavily on the sterling work that the pharmacists provide. They provide another tier of safety by checking the doses and interaction of a patient's drugs - many of whom are taking lots of medicines. I have seen the frequent advice sheets clipped to the drug charts from the pharmacist, asking the doctor to make adjustments to doses, interactions and timings of medicines. I have also experienced times when there is no cover at all and times when a pharmacist is trying to cover many areas with the result that ward nurses have to screen the prescription sheets during drug rounds (to the best of their ability).