If you’re considering becoming a pharmacist prescriber, you need to find someone willing to act as a designated prescribing practitioner (DPP), or you are stuck!Faheem Ahmed, award-winning pharmacist prescriber
I also struggled. Finding someone to act as a designated prescribing practitioner (DPP) was and still is an absolute nightmare. I spent over 2 years trying to find one, and since then, I have heard some horrific stories of pharmacists even paying DPP’s. Look, I do not have an issue with paying to learn, but I do have a problem paying and NOT getting value in return!
I’ll tackle the concept of finding the right DPP later; let us look at how to find one. The first thing you need to understand is that COVID-19 has not helped and that many G.P. surgeries have their own pharmacists in-house. So if you read between the lines, what I am trying to say is; surgeries are not short of pharmacists. So with that in mind, you have to develop a strategy, and it is not hard. Just keep reading the steps below.
Step 1: Be clear about what you need
Before searching for a DPP, make sure you are aware of what it is you need. Think about the following; (1) how many hours do you need supervision (usually out of the 90 hours required, at least 45 hours should be with the DPP)? (2) Is the DPP suitable? This is not limited to the criteria set by the GPHC and the Competency Framework for Designated Prescribing Practitioners, but also most universities now require DPPs to have experience in teaching and require evidence of this ie, completion of the E-LfH educator training resources modules may suffice, (3) can the DPP provide you with a structure to ensure you get the best out of your learning within your scope of practice? We will talk more about this in future articles in more depth.
Step 2: What do you want from the DPP
If you think the DPP is there to ‘teach, think again. Do you really believe in 6 months, you can learn and be competent in diagnosing, managing, and treating disease?
Furthermore, the prescribing course is not designed to teach or for you to learn clinical skills. Instead, it is designed to build on your’ existing knowledge’. So, in simple terms, if you do not have the skills to take a thorough, structured patient history/consultation and examine body systems underpinned by an understanding of anatomy, physiology, and clinical medicine, you need to develop these skills first!
In my opinion, the DPP should provide you with a clear structure to enhance your existing skills, examples of which include; (1) allowing you to undertake patient consultations under their supervision, (2) observing and critique your examination skills, (3) providing feedback and (4) regular case-based discussions, so you are exposed to a range of clinical problems.
Step 3: Begin your search
With the above in mind, you can now start your search.
I suggest you begin by contacting your local doctors directly asking for a callback. Literally, pick up the phone and ask the receptionist to message the G.P. regarding your course. But, before you do this, make sure you can demonstrate what the practice or G.P. will get in return (please don’t offer money because why pay if you can get it for free?); I have an example for you in step 4.
Step 4: Example of exchange in value
You can use an example as an email or even as a pitch to the surgery/G.P.
Dear XXX, Thank you for your time earlier today. As explained I would like to undertake the Pharmacist independent prescribing course and have attached a document explaining the input that I would require from a G.P. surgery in order to complete the course. As you are probably aware the benefits of having a pharmacist prescriber within the G.P. practice are well documented and include; 1. Reducing waiting times for appointments by offering a minor ailment clinic 2. Responsibility for all prescription-related queries and undertaking clinical medicines reviews. What this would involve is tackling all medicine/prescribing queries that come in to the practice from patients and others such as hospital doctors or district nurses, and handle the numerous prescription requests that would have been sent to G.P.s 3. Take responsibility or advise on the business management of the dispensary 4. Identify and improve areas where the surgery is lacking with their QOF targets i.e., running clinics to improve patient health outcomes such as an asthma clinic or hypertension clinic etc 5. Save G.P. practice locum costs The requirement for me to undertake the course is to identify an area to prescribe, i.e., uncomplicated hypertension stages 1,2 & 3, and I would need 12 days of study time within the surgery. Just to clarify, the 12 days of study would be a discussion I would have with the G.P. and agree with my learning needs, i.e., some of the days I could sit within the G.P. surgery, and the remaining days I could do self study with the surgery. There is no set way of learning so I would like to make it as easy as possible without causing any disruption. I have attached 2 documents of which the first documents explain the role of the G.P. within my study and the second outlines the benefits of having a pharmacist within a surgery. If you were happy to help me undertake the prescribing course, I would like to give something back to the surgery and work as a volunteer on an agreed time frame which would be beneficial to the practice once I have qualified. Thank you XXXX
Step 5: Do not give up
The key to finding a DPP is no more than good old persistence. Remember, when one door closes, another opens. With this in mind, do not give up. If the local surgeries cannot help, then contact the out-of-hours clinicians. I have found them extremely helpful, and I am sure you will find the same.
Step 6: Consider working in general practice.
The Primary care pharmacy education pathway may be a suitable option for some but may not appeal to everyone and certainly would not appeal to me if the only reason I went into general practice was to gain my qualification. However, having said that, sometimes you do what you have to do!
The moral of the story
In summary, there is no hard and fast rule for finding a DPP. Ultimately you need to build relationships and offer value in return. So stay positive and keep trying and never give up. As I mentioned earlier, it took me over 2 years to find a DPP, and although it was disheartening, I never gave up because there is a will, there is a way.