Pharmacy – there’s more to us than you think…


When you tell people you work in Pharmacy their perception is that you spend your day in a dispensary sticking labels on boxes of medicines. Don’t get me wrong, we do stick labels on boxes, but there is so much more to Pharmacy than that. For example, did you know that all Pharmacists have a master’s degree as a standard?

I am a Pharmacy Technician, and my career started in Pharmacy at the age of 15 when I did two week’s work experience in my local Pharmacy which led to my first job as a Saturday girl. I then went on to train as a Technician, which takes two years of study to complete.  Since qualifying, I have been fortunate enough to have a varied career working in community Pharmacy, for the Ministry of Defence at HMS Drake, and then, the NHS.

During my 23 years in Pharmacy I have absolutely stuck labels on boxes, but I have also done so much more

I worked as a Medicines Management Technician on the wards for several years. This involved seeing patient’s every day, checking their medicines they brought in from home to ensure they were safe and still appropriate for them to use, ensuring they received their new medication and working with the ward staff to process their discharge medicines to take home.

From being predominantly patient facing, I then changed my role and moved into Pharmacy Procurement – what a change and a challenge! Procurement, like Pharmacy in general, is a misunderstood role within the NHS. Many people think that it means sitting at a computer and just shopping for medicines every day, if only this were the case. Every month over 6000 lines come in through Pharmacy Goods-In, and I have to ensure they are safe, economic, not falsified, their integrity (i.e. temperature, packaging) has been maintained, they have been purchased from an appropriate and bona fide supplier, our documentation is maintained, and contracts are adhered to – and that’s just all the simple stuff.

I also have to manage suppliers, develop and adjudicate contracts for medicines and associated services, ensure compliance to any new regulations or legislation, I gained my degree in purchasing, and then of course there are the shortages.

Unfortunately the medicines supply chain is extremely fragile and most days we experience difficulties in obtaining medicines. Mostly with a bit of work we are able to resolve the problem, however there are ones that require a huge amount of work and prove to be very challenging. When these occur then my role is to source from other hospitals, or to source an alternative product or to source from another country, all the while ensuring the product will be safe for our patient’s to use. This is by far the most challenging element of my role.

So, why do I do it?

Simply because I love working in Pharmacy and the challenges bring so much reward. I may not be patient facing anymore, but be under no illusions that I am still patient focused and every day my team have a positive impact on patient care.

For example, I spent most of today trying to source a vital injection for a young man who is extremely unwell. Unfortunately he can only have one medication and it is in short supply. It took several hours and countless phone calls up and down the country – but we did it! We managed to source some supply and this young man will now receive his treatment. That is why I do what I do.

There are many misconceptions about Pharmacy, but like so many of the support services, we are essential to the NHS and delivering the care our patients need. We may not see the patient’s day in and day out, but in Pharmacy we are no less patient focused than the doctors and nurses on the wards and that is why I love what I do, especially in the NHS, and will continue to do it for another 23 years!

Trudy Bown

Chief Pharmacy Procurement & IT Manager


Trudy is writing as part of the #WeCare2 campaign that will be running across our Trust communications. Look out for more from Pharmacy, and their AHP and HCS colleagues, on our social media pages, Trust screensavers, Daily Email, Vital Signs and much more.


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