Ballycastle man is crowned Scotland’s top pharmacist

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A BALLYCASTLE man has picked up a top prize at the prestigious Scottish Pharmacist Awards ceremony held in Edinburgh’s International Conference Centre.

James Higgins, who now works at Alness Pharmacy in Easter Ross, fought off tough competition from across Scotland to scoop the Pharmacist of the Year Award supported by Teva UK pharmaceutical company.

James, who has in a matter of months established a new pharmacy and kick started the delivery of services, was recognised for his dedication to caring for his community in many different ways.

Since starting as the pharmacy manager in the new branch, James has established a wide range of services, including repeat prescription ordering, daily collection and delivery, a needle exchange and a Hepatitis C screening programme.

His enthusiasm and innovative approach to healthcare has already helped to raise awareness of the pharmacy’s services among the local community. These include the Minor Ailment Service and the Chronic Medications Service, and smoking cessation and emergency hormonal contraception, which are delivered as part of the Scottish Public Health Service (PHS).

Commenting on his achievement, James said: “It’s great to be recognised, particularly when you discover the calibre of those who were also shortlisted.

“Even though the title is Pharmacist of the Year, it would be impossible to win that on your own – the whole team contributes to the pharmacy’s success, which is still just seven months old after opening in August.

“The CHEMI trophy is already in the window and the team are very proud, as are the customers. It’s definitely become a talking point!”

James trained in Pharmacy at Queens University, Belfast, then worked in Belfast and Edinburgh before moving to the Highlands last year.

While in Edinburgh, he trained as a supplementary prescriber and then as an independent prescriber, running clinics with two local GP practices. He also acted as the Lothian Health Board Smoking Cessation Service lead pharmacist, co-ordinating the service offered through pharmacies.

He said: “I had always been interested in moving to the Highlands and, when this job came up, I thought it was too good an opportunity to turn down.

“Since arriving here, the helpful and positive attitude of other services, NHS Highland and our service users has been amazing and has enabled us to get a range of services off the ground much more quickly than anticipated.”

NHS Highland’s Head of Community Pharmaceutical Services, Mary Morton, said: “Colleagues in NHS Highland are delighted to hear of James’ success.

“His recent commitment to act as a Community Pharmacy Practitioner Champion will allow him the opportunity to provide peer support to community pharmacists across the Mid Highland area.”