Award Winners Interviews
The Independent Pharmacist of the Year Carys Spencer is a champion of community pharmacy in Wales. She talks to Saša Janković about her success…
“Welsh Pharmacy is coming into its own at the moment, and I’m really keen to champion that,” says Carys Spencer, pharmacist and manager at Pontyclun Pharmacy in South Wales – and winner of ICP’s Independent Pharmacist of the Year Award.
And she should know. Carys started her career as a Saturday girl at the very pharmacy where she now works and, since qualifying in 2016, has continued to take on further skills and responsibilities.
Alongside her role as a pharmacist she works with the General Pharmaceutical Council, the local Health Board, and has been a supervisor for the new multi-sector training programme in Wales which sees all pharmacy trainees doing a rotational year across community, hospital and general practice pharmacy disciplines.
As well as gaining a postgraduate diploma in leadership in healthcare at the University of South Wales in September 2022, next on the cards for her own professional development is completing the Independent Prescriber qualification later this year.
But Carys’ forward motion doesn’t stop there. Her pharmacy is at the forefront of service delivery and was an early adopter of the Welsh sore throat test and treat service – “which paused in Covid but is back with a vengeance now”, she says – as well as the ‘Attend Anywhere’ virtual clinic consultations which patients were keen to make to use of during the height of the pandemic.
Smoking cessation support
Another of Pontyclun Pharmacy’s successful offerings is the Welsh smoking cessation service.
“Level 2 involves all staff members and is triggered when a person is referred to the pharmacy by a dedicated smoking cessation advisor or stop smoking helpline with a note of what they need, and any member of the team can supply it”, explains Carys, “whereas at Level 3 the pharmacist helps the person directly with a 12-week supervised program of behavioural support and NRT.”
Carys has also played a key role in delivering offsite smoking cessation, partnering with Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) Wales and cancer care charity Tenovus to deliver smoking cessation sessions at Bridgend College and Amazon UK’s fulfilment centre in Swansea.
“A friend who knew I offered the Welsh smoking cessation service works for the Tenovus charity and heard that ASH Wales was looking for pharmacists to go to support their off-site education program with them”, says Carys.
“What’s great about it is that it’s a way to reach people who might not ordinarily have the time to go to the pharmacy. I go with the ASH Wales team to offsites where they talk about what the charity offers and if people want to quit I can then signpost them to their nearest pharmacy that’s running the service.”
In addition, Pontyclun pharmacy provides discharge medicines reviews and the services which make up the new clinical community pharmacy service including emergency medicines supply, the Common Ailments Service (CAS), emergency contraception, domiciliary care workers vaccination service and influenza vaccinations.
Carys delivered 200 flu vaccines in her first year and achieved the same amount last season, despite cutting down her time in the pharmacy to two-and-a-half days a week in order to fit in her other role as a Community Pharmacy Facilitator at the Health Board three days a week – a position that has given her a key role in delivering offsite flu vaccination events in conjunction with the local Council.
“In the last few months, we’ve also been offering the new Bridging and QuickStart contraception service,” adds Carys, “which allows us either as part of an emergency contraception consultation, or on request, to supply three months’ supply of contraception to anyone who needs it – which has become a mandatory service for all pharmacies in Wales from 1 April.”
Another project has been her collaboration with Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board to create material for their #yourlocalteam campaign to increase public awareness of the various roles of healthcare professionals in the area who can help patients, without the need to go to the doctor first.
“Quite a few people saw the adverts in surgeries and on social media which successfully prompted them to visit their pharmacist first for common and minor ailments instead of their GP”, says Carys.
Indeed, one of the biggest impacts Carys and her team have had in their community has been consistent service provision throughout the pandemic – in particular, delivering a high number of CAS consultations.
“One benefit of the pandemic was that the role of the entire team has had to change to drive forward towards the new services”, says Carys. “For example, my dispensing staff really had to upskill to adapt to the changing role of the pharmacist, as I was in the consultation room all the time so they had to deal with queries when I’m not available to ask.”
As a result, Carys achieved the aims set out by the Welsh government to increase the number of Common Ailments Service consultations between January and March 2022, to improve collaborative working in conjunction with her local GP colleagues and ensure patients were able to access prompt and effective healthcare.
“We had a really high number of CAS consultations during that period”, she says, “and it has continued to grow massively since then. Inspired by that I am now doing my Independent Prescriber qualification which will help me to deliver even more for my community once I finish that in September, all being well. I think doing my IP will be the biggest shift in my career to date and I’m really looking forward to making the most of what it brings to my business.
“Since the Common Ailments Service has taken off,” adds Carys, “the public’s perception of what their local community pharmacy can to for them has really grown – which is great – and my part-time role in the heath board as well gives me even more of an opportunity to improve engagement across community pharmacy.
“But I couldn’t do it without my amazing team.”