Johnathan Laird: My first year on the RPS Scottish Pharmacy Board

Johnathan LairdJohnathan Laird is a member of the Scottish Pharmacy Board. One year ago, he was elected at the Board and today he is sharing his experience of being part of a team of great pharmacy professionals. Here is what Johnathan had to say in his own words…  

My relationship with the RPS has been rather patchy over the years. Like many, I cynically questioned the value of the organisation.

How naive I was. Yet another error in the course of my career.

Just over two years ago I made a decision to come out of my shell and get involved. This was the best decision of my career so far.

Read more Johnathan Laird: My first year on the RPS Scottish Pharmacy Board

How students can stand out from the crowd with a CV and cover letter

BekkiWith an ever increasing number of pharmacy students but the same number of pharmacy jobs, competition in the sector has never been higher. What can you do to make sure you secure a role as a Pharmacist upon graduation? The key to ensuring a pre-reg position and job post-graduation is making yourself stand out from the rest; everyone will have a degree but it is the extra experience and diversity you can demonstrate that will set you apart.

Here are some key tips:
– Experience in the sector is essential. Apply for summer placements early and do this from first year. Employers will like the fact that you show commitment to the profession right from the start.
– Try and get experience in both hospital and community – this demonstrates adaptability and will enable you to accrue a more diverse set of skills
– Apply for a part-time job as a healthcare assistant (HCA) in community – this will give you vast experience in communicating with patients and help you to become accustomed to the industry as an employee rather than a student
– Employers like leadership – get involved in helping mentor students at your university.
– Get involved in the profession – engage with the RPS and BPSA and the work they do and get involved in the student roles they have. This will allow you to network and appreciate the wider aspects of the profession.
– Be pro-active – actively look for opportunities to do something extra during your degree.

All of this experience needs to be formulated into a great CV and cover letter. Your CV should provide a focused and shortened summary of all the education and experience you have; this is the most formal part of the application. A cover letter should always accompany a CV unless you are instructed otherwise and should be tailored specifically to the role you are applying for. A cover letter is the first thing an employer will see and provides an opportunity for you to attract the employer’s attention and persuade them to choose you. The cover letter allows you to personalise an application and discuss specific areas of the CV in depth. This is your chance to stand-out and highlight key experience that you have that make you most suitable for a role. Don’t be afraid to use the cover letter to state exactly what you have that make you an obvious candidate and better than the rest.

Bekki Burgoyne, Recently Qualified Pharmacist

The inspiring women of pharmacy


International Women’s day celebrates the milestone achievements and the history of women, spreading awareness about their social, economic, cultural and political achievements, it also encourages a call to action for accelerating gender parity.
To mark this day, we chat to Hannah Batchelor, BSc, PhD, Director of Research for Pharmacy at the University of Birmingham about her current role, challenges and successes as a female in her profession and more importantly how to #BeBoldForChange.

What do you see as the successes and challenges for women in the workplace?

“I would really like to see the same ratio of women in senior pharmacy positions as we see in undergraduate courses. At the moment the pharmacy schools council which represents the heads of schools has 6/30 members who are women (20%). A report in 2014 on the number of females who are chief pharmacists showed a similar proportion where 25% of roles were filled by women.
It is great that there are now women appearing on these lists but there needs to be more research into why women are not filling these roles to understand the barriers and how these can be overcome. This issue is particularly close to my heart as I want to inspire the undergraduates to achieve senior roles in pharmacy regardless of their gender.”

Do you have any examples of leadership, networking, negotiating and influencing?

“I am the Director of Research for Pharmacy at the University of Birmingham, this role is great as I meet the senior leadership teams from across the University and have an opportunity to promote pharmacy as a diverse topic to many other disciplines. I also meet with industry leaders and highlight what we can offer at the University for research projects to help advance both science and practice.
I recently led a large multicentre paediatric clinical study as part of an Innovate UK Formulated Products Collaborative R&D project (Ref: 101709) on Accelerating Paediatric Formulation Development through Smart Design and Predictive Science), which is co-funded by Innovate UK and the contributing companies of AstraZeneca, Bristol Myers Squibb, GlaxoSmithKline, Juniper Pharmaceuticals and Pfizer. This project recruited over 600 children to get a better understanding about the acceptability of existing medicines and how we measure acceptability of new medicines.”

Can you tell us some of your Inspirational tips and motivation linked to your career high points?

“My career highlights relate to when I feel I have made a difference to someone, be it an undergraduate or patient. I recently undertook a project to find out how parents and carers of children with Cystic Fibrosis manage to administer flucloxacillin so that we could collect strategies to provide to other parents and carers. Over Christmas I received an email from a parent saying how thankful he was to have found this information and how it had helped him to manage his child’s administration. It is sometimes the small things like that interaction that are more meaningful rather than publication of papers or gaining grant income.”

Do you have any Practical steps to drive your career forward?

“Embrace opportunity! It sounds obvious but by embracing opportunities to network with others or reach out to different disciplines can really expand your reach both in terms of research projects and also job offers. It is all too easy to stick to what you know and stay in your comfort zone but it is only by stepping outside that you really begin to excel.
My other tip is to think BIG! Be as bold as you dare and go for it. If you really go for a big project you are likely to achieve something great, if you go for the small and safe option you never know what you could have gained.”

How to get an NIHR research fellowship

Mandy WanBy Mandy Wan, Lead Paediatric Clinical Trials Pharmacist at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust and HEE/ NIHR Doctoral Research Fellow

I was delighted to hear just before Christmas that I was successful with an NIHR fellowship application and want to encourage more pharmacists to apply for funding and to lead research.

I have been a paediatric clinical trials pharmacist for most of the past 10 years, so am lucky to already be closely engaged in research work and have an understanding of how research can really impact day to day practice.
I applied for NIHR funding 2 years ago but I wasn’t successful. This time, I decided to apply again with a different topic. My research question came from a common query that kept coming through to the pharmacy department; what dose of Vitamin D is appropriate in children? Read more How to get an NIHR research fellowship

Why get involved in Quality Improvement?

Fiona Jones, Welsh Pharmacy Board Picture by Nick Treharne

Author: Fiona Jones, Welsh Pharmacy Board
Picture by Nick Treharne

Why get involved in Quality Improvement? I’m sure everyone asks these question.
Do I have time?
How much work is involved?
Will it make a difference?

Like you, I too thought I didn’t have any time, or maybe the skills to start making a difference, I may have felt that it’s easier to keep doing what I’ve always done. However back in 2012 I undertook the RPS Leadership course and from then on I haven’t looked back.

I started looking at how we could integrate pharmacy into the wider teams locally and started having meetings with the local district nurses and social workers. They were very keen to have some pharmacy input and so our domiciliary medicines support service started to grow.

Our first step was to find a suitable e-mail address that everyone could access. Subsequently we promoted this via posters and meetings to raise awareness. Within 12 months we had referrals from occupational therapists, social workers, carers, district nurses and the local memory clinics.

Data was collected on who was making the referral and the interventions/contributions that my team were making to support patients at home. Over the last 4 years we continued to expand the service into other areas across Betsi Cadwalader University Health Board central in North Wales.

This all looked good, so I decided to enter the service for the NHS Wales awards. Surprisingly we reached the final and attended the ceremony in the autumn of last year.
We were one of only two Primary Care finalists and one of only two pharmacy teams out of 167 applicants.

So my challenge to all pharmacists out there is to get involved and showcase all the great work you do. Take the next step and go for the National awards – you never know what will happen.

This year 1000 Lives, the national improvement service for NHS Wales, have been challenged by the Cabinet Secretary for Health, Wellbeing and Sport Vaughan Gething AM, to continue to support all finalists with the vision of extending these exciting services nationally.

So get your application ready for the launch on 8th February and GOOD LUCK!

A look into China’s history of pharmacy and herbal medicine

A72BB1 The Great Wall Mutianyu China


In November 2016, twenty RPS members had the chance to take part in the ‘Pharmacy in China Tour 2016. Fellow of the RPS Dr Stuart Anderson FRPharmS, led the trip, he shares his two week experience.

“When I was told in September 2015 that the RPS were hoping to support a study tour to China with Jon Baines tours and asked me if I might be interested in acting as tour leader I jumped at the chance, having previously visited Shanghai and Hong Kong. After a lot of planning and promotion the two-week Pharmacy in China Tour finally took place in November 2016.

Twenty of us met up for the first time at our hotel in Beijing on Saturday afternoon. It was a delightfully mixed group; some recently and some not so recently retired pharmacists and their partners, some still with very busy careers, either just beginning and others well established, and some pharmacy students who had managed to take time out from their studies. Backgrounds too extended from community pharmacy proprietors to hospital, regulatory and industrial pharmacists. In the evening we met up with our Chinese guide, Zhong (‘John’). Read more A look into China’s history of pharmacy and herbal medicine

Life as a consultant cancer pharmacist

steve williamson

Pharmacy has an important role to play regarding new and existing cancer treatments, we chat to Consultant Cancer Pharmacist and Chair of British Oncology Pharmacy Association, Steve Williamson MRPharmS(IPresc), MSc who explains his area of work in more detail.

What was your first contact with pharmacy as a profession?

When I was 16 I visited my local Hospital where my mum worked as an ITU nurse and met the clinical pharmacist who worked on her unit, after talking to him I decided that I wanted to be a hospital pharmacist.

What does your current role involve and how did you get there?

I’m consultant Cancer Pharmacist, for a large progressive NHS Trust Northumbria, and lead the Trust chemotherapy service, my job involves clinical work with cancer patients, as a prescriber, being responsible for the chemotherapy service and leading the pharmacy input into oncology. I also work for NHS England as a cancer pharmacist advising commissioners on how to get best value in cancer medicines for patients and NHS.

What do you enjoy most about your work?

I enjoy the Variety my role brings, the chance to both work as part of a team, helping to set standards for chemotherapy and ensure patients get access to the best medicines. But the most satisfying part of the role is working directly with patients helping them manage their chemotherapy.

What is the best piece of advice you have for other pharmacists looking to get into a similar area?

Hospital pharmacy is varied with huge opportunities in many areas, there is great satisfaction in being a prescriber and making clinical decisions for the better of patients, oncology & chemotherapy is an area that most hospital pharmacies will provide training in, so my advice is to embrace it and look for opportunities to work directly with patients and then think about pursuing a specialist oncology pharmacy role.

‘You can visit BOPA, or the RPS faculty of Cancer Pharmacists to find out more about oncology pharmacy.

Dear exams, I will give you everything I have.


Suyee Chan (002)The most common pieces of advice I’ve been given deal with stress, time management and maximising concentration, but there’s not much about optimising the way we study. As a visual learner with two years of trial and error, below are some study methods I used for MPharm exams, as well as what I plan to achieve this year.

In year 1, I was organised but studying became a bit of a chore.

Notes: Handwriting all of my notes and organising into folders.

Studying: Mostly using books, Khan Academy and youtube videos. For revision, I made posters and did past paper questions.

Tools: I organised my life, work and studies using list pads and a bullet journal.

In year 2, I explored new study methods.

Notes: I typed up my lecture notes initially, then created mind maps containing relevant content by hand. I also listened to some lectures that I recorded (ones that overwhelmed me), relevant podcasts and revision notes. For chemistry mechanisms and anatomical diagrams, I found that drawing on a whiteboard reinforced my learning.

Studying: During revision period, getting together with friends was a good strategy to learn more in a short amount of time, not only because a group can focus on multiple topics, but for the support and motivation as well. We also wrote, exchanged, answered and marked each other’s’ exam-style questions; this challenged me to refine my understanding of each topic and more importantly, step into the examiner’s shoes.

Tools: Here are some free apps I personally recommend:

1) Microsoft OneNote – for organising notes
2) Forest – for time management
3) Paper by FiftyThree – for visual notes
4) Memrise – for creating flash cards
5) Coffitivity – for concentration

In year 3, I am motivated to do better by using methods that suit me. One revision tip we see everywhere is to set specific and realistic goals, so this year I have planned to:

● Create notes with relevant links for future reference – find out about anything that causes confusion there and then, either by looking it up or asking somebody.
● Explain complex content in my own words so they make sense in the future.
● Recite important points.
● Make revision posters and do past paper questions.
● When term ends, start a journal with timetables (and follow them!).

Providing a Travel Medicines Service



By Cathy O’Malley RGN, Dip Trav Med, MFTM RCPS(Glasg), Travel Health Specialist Nurse, Member of the Faculty of Travel Medicine Education board RCPSG

65.7 million UK residents travelled abroad in 2015; a substantial growth on previous years, with more people seeking travel health advice from community pharmacists.

So what does providing a travel medicine
service entail?

A risk assessment should be performed; gathering detailed information about the trip and traveller. RCN guidance; Travel Health Nursing 2 lists questions to ask and recommends using this information to tailor advice to the individual. It is vital to use a comprehensive database for information on travel associated risks eg NaTHNaC or TRAVAX. Travellers may require vaccines and prevention advice. Immunisation against infectious disease – contains guidance on vaccines, contraindications and schedules. Some travellers will require malaria advice: Awareness of risk, Bite avoidance, Chemoprophylaxis and the importance of prompt Diagnosis. The PHE 2015 Guidelines for malaria prevention in Travellers from the UK are an extremely useful resource. Pharmacists may be experienced advising on sun protection and bite avoidance; however it is important to develop knowledge.

Pharmacists may be experienced advising on sun protection and bite avoidance; however it is important to develop knowledge on a range of topics such as Zika virus, rabies post-exposure management and advising the complex traveller.

What training is recommended for Travel
Health advisors?

A two day introduction to Travel Health course (minimum of 15 hours relevant learning) plus mentorship should be completed before undertaking a travel consultation alone. Practitioners should attend an annual update4. Pharmacists may consider the Foundation in Travel Medicine/Diploma in Travel Medicine courses.

The RPS and the Faculty of Travel of Travel Medicine are holding a joint travel medicines symposium on 18th March 2017.

What to expect

  • An exciting opportunity to hear the latest news and updates from Travel Medicine Specialists and a chance to network with other health professionals. Professor Peter Chiodini (Consultant Parasitologist & PHE Director of the Malaria Reference Laboratory) & Jane Chiodini (Travel Health Nurse Specialist & Director of Education, Faculty of Travel Medicine) will present on the latest changes to Malaria
    prevention advice.
  • Pharmacist Jan Jones will talk about the highs and lows of providing a travel medicine service in the commercial world and Pharmacist Fiona Mara on advising those travelling with medications.
  • Sarah Lang (Immunisation Nurse Specialist) will present on common challenges in Vaccine administration.

Places are limited, book now to avoid disappointment.