Sobha Sharma-Kandel is superintendent pharmacist of the Neem Tree Pharmacy and Woolwich Late Night Pharmacy in London. She is also a GP practice pharmacist and an independent prescriber.
She talks to Léa Legraien about her experience, success and challenges.
Q Why did you become a pharmacist?
A I’ve been interested in science and medicine since I was a child. I decided to choose pharmacy after I had an interesting work experience at the pharmacy department of Hammersmith Hospital when I was an A-level student.
At the time, I also got a job as a healthcare assistant in my local Boots store. I really enjoyed working there, interacting with the patients, and I was really inspired by the pharmacists I worked with.
Q Why did you become an independent prescriber?
A As a pharmacist, I thought there’s only so much I can do. I could give medication reviews via the new medicine service (NMS) but couldn’t make the changes myself.
The prescribing helped me get the GP practice job, so career-wise it opened up more opportunities for me.
Q What is the key to your success?
A Hard work, perseverance and focus. Pushing myself to achieve more, learning more each time and taking opportunities as they come.
Q What are your biggest achievements?
A Being superintendent of two pharmacies. I purchased my first pharmacy in 2009 – a local Co-operative pharmacy that wasn’t doing well – and was able to turn the business around, increase the scripts and sales and introduce some clinical services.
In 2013, I opened my second branch and this year I [completed] my MSc in prescribing.
Q What challenges have you faced along the way?
A Balancing my family life and my career was probably the biggest challenge. After I qualified, I fell pregnant and going back to work was quite difficult.
I’ve got four kids in total and had them quite close together. They were all under six at some point and it was difficult.
I was also helping my husband set up his new business at the time and juggling everything was difficult.
Q What is the most valuable lesson you’ve learned?
A When I was on maternity leave, I felt out of the loop professionally because I wasn’t up to date and being a community pharmacist is quite lonely.
I had to increase my confidence, which involved doing my prescribing course and diploma. I’m making effort to attend networking events and keep myself up-to-date [through] local practice forums, continuing professional development and clinical events.
I’ve learned that where there is a will there is a way. You shouldn’t give up on your dreams and should look after your mental and physical health and take time out for yourself to relax.
Q What are the key qualities of a good leader?
A You need to be inspirational, lead by example, empower your team to achieve their full potential and remain humble to help.
Q What advice would you give to women who want to be leaders?
A Have a vision of what you want to achieve, focus on that and work hard for it.
Build up support networks and be confident. If you have an opportunity and really want to do it then you should go for it.
Support other inspiring women leaders on their path because it’s important for us to support each other and not pull each other down.
Q What makes you happy at work?
A Making a difference to patients’ health. When they come back and thank me for advice I’ve given them or a new medication I recommended that really helped them, it means everything to me.
Q What is it like to be a GP pharmacist?
A It’s a new role in which you’re part of a multidisciplinary team. If I need advice, I can speak to a doctor or a nurse, which I can’t really do in community pharmacy.
I also feel that I’ve got more autonomy – I run my own clinic and can prescribe within my own competency.
I was part of the first wave of NHS England clinical pharmacists in GP practices and got a lot of training and got to enjoy a more patient-facing role because I was already a prescriber when I started the job.
A lot of the work is totally different – I’m dealing with long-term chronic diseases, triage, medicine reconciliation, discharge planning and ordering blood tests and x-ray scans.
Now I can understand the pressures GPs are facing in general practice.
Instead of working in GP practices, [it would be great] if we could have access to patient medication records. I don’t see why long-term condition clinics can’t be run at the pharmacy. The local GP and local pharmacist can collaborate and really make a difference to patients’ health together.
Q How would you describe the current state of pharmacy?
A On one side, it’s quite challenging especially with the funding cuts, supply issues, generics prices going up and a lot more paperwork and work pressure.
On the other side, it’s quite exciting. We’re able to take up on a more clinical role and make a difference to patient care with enhanced and advanced services.
Q What changes would you like to see in pharmacy?
A The pharmacy contract is based on items when it should be based on clinical services.
[I’d like to see] more autonomy and increased collaboration with GP practices and access to the PMR system.
Maybe prescribing should be part of the degree or every pharmacist in the community should be able to be a prescriber.
I‘d like to see the profession united so we can influence for change to happen because it’s taking a long time at the moment.
But I’m confident [about the future]. Pharmacy has always survived through the years – we’re a resilient branch but we need to advocate for ourselves, which we aren’t doing sometimes.