Joanne Appleton, Chief Pharmacy Technician

Joanne Appleton   Chief Pharmacy Technician

Joanne Appleton, Chief Pharmacy Technician, Patient Services at The Royal Oldham Hospital

What is your role? (Job/Team/Department)

I am the Chief Pharmacy Technician – Patient Services at The Royal Oldham Hospital. I have been in this role for 17 years. Previous to this role, I was the Senior Pharmacy Technician – Ward Services at North Manchester General Hospital.

Where are you based?

At The Royal Oldham Hospital, but since the end of November 2020, I have been based at the GM Mass Vaccination Centre (Etihad Tennis and Football Centre).

What are the main duties you do as part of your role?

I manage all aspects of patient services within the Pharmacy Department at The Royal Oldham Hospital. This includes organising and developing new and existing pharmaceutical services whilst ensuring all technical and support staff are appropriately trained.

I have a keen interest in education and training in pharmacy. I enjoy overseeing the annual recruitment and training of our Pre-Registration Pharmacy Technicians. I sit on the Health Education England (HEE) Technical Support Group and the HEE Training Standards Group. Both groups are responsible for the quality and delivery of pharmacy support staff training in the North of England.

I was responsible for the introduction and training of Pharmacy Technicians to administer medication to inpatients within the Pennine Acute Hospitals. This role has been a huge success within the Trust and the North West region; a role that HEE North have recognised and are working to expand in the future.

What attracted you to a career in science?

I loved Biology and Chemistry at school and I knew I wanted to work in a hospital, but was unsure in which occupation. I applied for a job in my local pharmacy, which I loved, and after a short time I secured a role at Birch Hill Hospital as a Student Pharmacy Technician where I trained. After qualifying, I worked at Booth Hall Children’s Hospital and then North Manchester General Hospital.

The Pharmacy Technician role has changed so much in the 34 years I have been in the profession. In July 2011, Pharmacy Technicians became a registered profession. This has led to us taking on more responsibility and now performing many roles that were traditionally performed by pharmacists. Post qualification, I have studied and gained a Diploma in Pharmacy Management and a Diploma in Dispensing Accuracy Checking.

What has your main role been during the COVID-19 pandemic – and how has that role changed to accommodate the demands generated by the pandemic?

Managing and delivering a technical ward based pharmacy service during the COVID-19 pandemic has meant working differently to keep staff safe in their roles, whilst ensuring the continued safe delivery of medication to in patients and a ward based discharge service to ensure patient flow..

The pharmacy team voluntarily adopted a new shift pattern to enable staff to socially distance as well as extending pharmacy working hours to enable the team to compete their increased workload at ward level, in the dispensary and stores.

The technical team increased the visits and time spent delivering a pharmacy service to Critical Care areas, rising to the challenge of working in a very busy and emotional environment.

In November 2020, I joined the team that were tasked with setting up the GM Mass Vaccination Centre at the Etihad Tennis and Football Centre; an exciting project that definitely took me out of my comfort zone and one that I learnt so much from. Working in such a complex, multidisciplinary team of people to produce a service to help to deliver the biggest vaccination program in the history of the NHS has been a huge privilege.

My role was to assist in the setup of the centre. This entailed ‘building’ a pharmacy and a pharmacy service to enable the safe delivery of the COVID-19 vaccine to the GM population and writing standard operating procedures (SOPs) to ensure pharmacy and nursing staff followed national protocols, were supported and trained appropriately in handling, preparation and administration of the vaccine.

The GMMVC went live on January 11th and since then my role has been to manage the technical pharmacy team and to support the nursing and admin staff, problem solving, training and identifying ways to learn and improve the service.

After being involved in the GMMVC set up, I was then asked to be involved in the roll-out of the vaccination clinic at The Royal Oldham Hospital, enabling the Trust to vaccinate their staff on site. Seeing the first member of staff at The Royal Oldham Hospital and patient at GMMVC centre being vaccinated was quite emotional and will always be a very memorable part of my career.

What are your thoughts on the role of women in science?

Women have historically been overlooked in science based roles, but I think we have worked hard to break down barriers and are now being recognised and rewarded for our work.

In the pharmacy technician profession, more women are being recognised for the value they add in their role and the expertise they can offer in their chosen field and to other disciplines.

Promoting the pharmacy profession in schools is something I enjoy taking part in. Teenage girls especially don’t realise the diversity of careers available for women in science and the NHS and how you can progress in your chosen career.