Insight from Anna McLaughlin

16th April 2019

Time in general practice

12 years


Newcastle County Down


MPHARM (hons), IP, Diploma in Asthma and COPD

Current Role

  • Best thing about being a pharmacist in GP practice:

Every day is a learning day!


  • Worst thing about being a pharmacist in GP practice:

The feeling of the never-ending pile of work!

My life before becoming a pharmacist in GP Practice

I did my pre-reg at a large teaching hospital in Brighton, but then moved to community and have stayed there ever since.  I heard there was a Local Incentive Scheme (LES) for pharmacists to work in GP practices in 2007 and applied to my local surgery, I have been there part time ever since!

GP Practice experience

  • Practice Pharmacist; meds reconciliation, optimisation, hospital letters, acute list, medicines information, cost-effective switches, repeat prescribing protocols, local formulary development
  • Respiratory specialist, taking over all respiratory reviews in the practice.

Key examples of personal challenges of practice pharmacy – what were they and how did you overcome them? (including skills, knowledge and training)

Challenge #1

When I first started at the surgery, I was given a room and a sign-in for EMIS and left to it.  I literally had no idea what to do, and the GPs were also unsure of my role there.


I sat in with anyone who would have me and tried to establish what I could help with.  Fortunately, the role has developed since then and there are many training days for practice pharmacists now.  There are still grey areas, but much more support to help with these.

Challenge #2

When I started doing the respiratory clinics, I was coming across patients with respiratory diseases other than asthma/COPD such as pulmonary fibrosis, bronchiectasis, sleep apnoea and sarcoidosis.


I read up on these to equip me with knowledge, but felt I needed more than this.  There were no specific courses I could attend, so I approached some pharmaceutical companies who I have always found invaluable in helping to form links.  I was able to shadow various consultants and was subsequently invited to talks they were doing for respiratory nurses/teams.  I now know the local respiratory community team personally, and have often helped at their courses, giving a pharmacist’s perspective.

Key Messages

Form links with secondary care, and other surgery colleagues. Learn from them and become an invaluable member of their team.  I get calls daily from other Healthcare Professionals (HCPs) asking about inhaler types, medication, need for FeNO and asking for my opinion and advice.

What are your current priorities / key areas of focus?

I am keen to get involved in a local COPD screening service. Many patients present for the first time with late stage COPD, and there are much better outcomes with earlier intervention.

I am also running a FeNO testing walk-in service in my community pharmacy.  Seven surrounding practices can refer to the pharmacy to have this test done and results fed back to the practice.

How have you demonstrated impact and value in your practice?

I think the fact that any patient with any respiratory issue is now put on my list demonstrates that I have had an impact in my practice.  Staff are trained to alert me to SABA over-users, and any other respiratory patient that they have concerns about.  Patients phone up for review appointments when they don’t feel well.  I encourage an open-door policy at the pharmacy also where people can come and have a consultation there too, without an appointment.

I have also developed local asthma/COPD formularies for the practice, which have subsequently been shared to other practices.

What development do I need / am I undertaking at this point in my journey?

The next course I would like to do is chest auscultation. I will continue to attend all respiratory updates, there are also outpatient clinics such as the chronic cough clinic that I would like to attend.

What skills or competencies do you feel are important to have in your role as a practice pharmacist?

Communication, recognising when you need help, finding the right person to help.

What has been your perception of the i2i Network?

Practical and useful workshops on all current therapy areas and really worthwhile attending.  I never come away thinking I got nothing out of that. Really looking forward to the dermatology days!

I wish someone had told me………

take three nuggets of information away from every course you attend and write them in a ‘nugget’ book.