What does a consultant pharmacist in diabetes do?

Written by | 28 Sep 2023 | 'In Discussion With'

The work of a consultant pharmacist in diabetes spans clinical duties and leadership tasks including education and mentoring. There are at present only three consultant pharmacists in diabetes in the UK but the development of more highly-specialised positions in diabetes could be the stepping stone to more of these, Hannah Beba suggests.

Ms Beba is involved in the care of both patients with type I diabetes in secondary care and patients with complex type II diabetes in community services, GP practices and in Primary Care Networks. Her senior leadership roles include chairmanship of the Cardio-renal Metabolic Expert Working Group and the Diabetes Steering Group, both of which feed into the Long-term Conditions Board. “I have an amazing team of consultant medics and nurses and [various] other professions and also managers and payers and, you know, the right people around the table, which makes a huge difference to our health economy and what we what we spend our money wisely on”, she says. Education and mentorship are also important parts of her job. “I do lots of mentorship with people who are getting towards their consultant pharmacist posts and I also do lots of just education webinars [and conference presentations]. ….. It’s a lovely varied and very exciting job that I enjoy greatly”, she says.

Explaining the role to patients

It is still unusual for a patient to see a consultant pharmacist in diabetes so dealing with the situation calls for some sensitivity. “I’m really transparent about the fact that I’m a pharmacist I think it’s very important ……. To be absolutely honest, I don’t really care whether I’m called consultant or not – somebody else has made that decision for me, as to what the name of the post is, but I think the main thing is that it’s a recognition …. of the years put in [and] the expertise across all the pillars”, says Ms Beba.

Some patients are just pleased to be seeing someone and there are others who want to know more about Ms Beba’s post and why they are seeing her and not a consultant physician. “Some people have waited a long time to see a consultant doctor and then they see me instead. ….. Some people react fine to that and others not, so you know they want to know more, but I’ve never had anybody get up and walk out of my room – so that’s a good thing!”, she says.  She explains that there is still the option to see a consultant doctor if the patient wishes, “or …. you can stay on my list, depending on where we’re at and how you’re feeling – so I just leave it really open and …. with them as to how they’re feeling.  I think that’s the best thing”.

Why are there not more consultant pharmacists in diabetes?

Growing numbers of pharmacists are taking an interest in diabetes and roles are starting to develop in Primary Care Networks (PCNs). “In Leeds, for example, we’ve just put out our first specialist diabetes post within a Primary Care Network, which is really exciting. So, I’m hoping there’ll be a lot more of that – where people see the benefit that a pharmacist can bring to diabetes care”, says Ms Beba. However, the step up to a consultant post “is definitely not for the faint-hearted”, she adds. The breadth of work required is time-consuming and demanding and it can be challenging to achieve a satisfactory work-life balance, she emphasises.  “What I would like to see is the development of more highly-specialist posts – so that’s a step to consultant – and some people may stay at that level – [others] may progress up then on to consultant. …. I think that’s maybe why we don’t get there with a lot of people – they don’t have that post to move into where they can develop themselves, where they can get some more exposure to some of the different elements of the portfolio”, she suggests.

“It’s the right time to invest in a pathway for clinical leadership for pharmacists – so I would love to see that”, concludes Ms Beba.

About Hannah Beba

Hannah Beba is a consultant pharmacist in diabetes at Leeds Health and Care Partnership. Her clinical work involves care of patients with complex type II diabetes in community services, GP practices and primary care networks. She also has senior leadership roles; she chairs the Cardio-renal Metabolic Expert Working Group and the Diabetes Steering Group, both of which feed into the Long-term Conditions Board.

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