As a phar­ma­cist and se­nior lec­turer in phar­macy sci­ence, He­len Root from Le­ices­ter­shire ap­pre­ci­ates the French phar­macy ex­pe­ri­ence more than most when spend­ing time at her hol­i­day home in Deux-Sèvres

Living France - - Lifestyle -

Be­ing a phar­ma­cist and hav­ing worked in com­mu­nity phar­macy in the UK for over 20 years, I must con­fess to hav­ing a bit of an ob­ses­sion with vis­it­ing phar­ma­cies when abroad and France is no ex­cep­tion. It is ev­i­dent that in France, the phar­ma­cist is val­ued as a healthcare pro­fes­sional and per­haps seen less as a ‘shop­keeper’, which is part of the chal­lenge faced in the UK.

I am al­ways fas­ci­nated by the vast ar­ray of home­care sup­port pro­vided too, from or­thotic shoes to wheel­chairs and walk­ing frames. There is less em­pha­sis on other ‘re­tail’ ar­eas such as cos­met­ics, and you would never buy your ‘meal deal’ lunch from the phar­macy in France. In­stead you’d most likely head across the road to the boulan­gerie, be­cause even the small­est vil­lages in France have both a phar­macy and a boulan­gerie.

The sheer num­ber of phar­ma­cies in France sug­gests to me how fre­quently peo­ple visit them, be­fore or in­stead of their GP, with the phar­ma­cist hav­ing ac­cess to a wide range of con­ven­tional and com­ple­men­tary medicines to treat many ail­ments, both mi­nor or more com­plex.

I love brows­ing the shelves in France and look­ing at all the al­ter­na­tive, herbal reme­dies, which are, in the most part, dis­missed in the UK, as well as find­ing out what you can buy ‘over the counter’ without need­ing a pre­scrip­tion.

The phar­macy in France is not just about dis­pens­ing pre­scrip­tions, but also dis­pens­ing ad­vice and care, at the heart of the com­mu­nity. The con­cept of com­mu­nity phar­macy as I knew it back in the UK 20 years ago was much closer to France’s model of care to­day. I now work in the UK in academia, where our phar­ma­cists train for five years (in France train­ing takes six years) and are more than qual­i­fied to take on a more cen­tral healthcare role in the UK. Phar­ma­cists are ready to de­liver a clin­i­cal, com­mu­nity-based level of care in the lo­cal phar­macy. All we need now is a change in NHS pol­icy and to ed­u­cate the pub­lic that phar­ma­cists are not shop­keep­ers, but just an­other healthcare pro­fes­sional in a wider team.

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