What did you want to be when you were at school/growing up? If it was different, why did you change your mind?
I never really considered being anything else. Both my dad and my uncle were community pharmacists, so every Saturday and every school holiday from the age of 12, I worked in my dad's shop as a dispensing assistant. I also liked the fact that the degree led to a specific job.
Can you describe what you do in 1 sentence?
I use the skills and knowledge I've developed over the years to support clinicians, nurses and patients by advising on safe and effective use of medicines.
What qualities do you think you need to do your job well?
To be effective, people have to trust the advice you give, so the ability to communicate clearly and with confidence is key, but at the same time you need to be honest about what you don't know. You also need to be a good listener.
What are the main 2 factors that make you frustrated at work?
Time. There is never enough of it to do what I need to do.
Working in silos. People, departments, hospitals, and the NHS as a whole need to be more joined up – this is changing though, covid-19 changed it a bit, and people have also just realised that if you share others will share back.
Why would you recommend your career to a young person?
You feel that you can make a difference to people's lives, and you genuinely can – not just once in a blue moon, but literally with every interaction. Just simple things like taking the time to answer a patient's question about their medicine can improve compliance and have a positive impact on their lives.
What has been your biggest career challenge?
The covid-19 pandemic – it was a true challenge for everyone, but believing in the NHS as a system was the answer.
What was your best career move?
Never moved! Fell into covering intensive care by accident and never looked back.
What 3 factors make you skip into work?
The people I work with, both in pharmacy and on the wards, some of whom are my best friends and godparents to my children.
Never knowing what challenges I'll face, particularly on intensive care. Every day is different!
Using my experience and knowledge to solve problems. I love finding an answer to something that has stumped others.
If you could go back in time and give one piece of career advice to your younger self, what would it be?
I embarked on a PhD largely in my own time, without funding, while working full time and with a young family. I’d say, “No, don't do it!”
If there was one thing you could change about your role or the physical or policy environment you work in, what would it be and why?
It would be nice to have more clinical time in critical care, but I appreciate the more senior your role, the less clinical time you have. Unfortunately that’s just the way it is in the NHS.
What advance in medical/pharmaceutical technology would have the greatest impact in your field?
It will probably be pharmacogenomics – the clinician would potentially be able to decide whether a drug treatment would be effective or not and what side effects a patient may experience before they’ve taken a single dose.
What do you hope will be your legacy to your profession and colleagues?
I'm desperately trying to coax a defined career pathway for critical care pharmacists over the line. There are just so many moving parts, organisations involved and people to convince that it is moving slowly, but it could eventually be a model for other pharmacy specialties and other healthcare professionals.
Do you have any regrets about your career path?
No, there are more financially rewarding jobs, but I think from the outset you realise that isn't why you chose to work in the NHS.
What do you do to relax/de-stress?
Spending time with my family. Seeing my children laugh or being passionate about something or inquisitive just makes me forget about everything else, they really live in the moment.
What is your journey to work like?
I cycle to work, it's about 7.5 miles, so just far enough to give me a workout. It saves on gym membership and is better for the environment as well – triple whammy.
Who has been your biggest inspiration?
This is impossible to answer as different people have influenced different aspects of my work and home life. To pick a few though, my dad inspired me to be a pharmacist, David Attenborough to explore the world, and my children to take pleasure in things I've come to take for granted.
Where are you happiest and why?
With my wife and children. Feels like too obvious an answer, but one that is entirely true and didn't need thinking about. Watching my children develop and supporting them is very rewarding.
If you could be invisible for a day what would you do?
Probably sit and do nothing!
Greg Barton graduated with a degree in pharmacy from the University of Manchester in 1998 and completed his pre-registration training at Whiston Hospital, now part of Mersey and West Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust. He was then offered a position as a rotational clinical pharmacist at the hospital, and has remained there ever since.
In 2003 he completed a Diploma in Clinical Pharmacy at Liverpool John Moores University and moved to a specialist pharmacist post in critical care and burns in 2004.
Further training followed: Pharmacist Supplementary (Liverpool John Moores University, 2006), Foundation Course in Critical Care Pharmacy (Portsmouth University, 2009), Independent Prescriber (Keele University, 2010), and Master of Philosophy (Liverpool John Moores University, 2019) in which he examined the role of different administration methods of antibiotics in septic patients. Greg is passionate about research and the principal investigator on a number of studies at his trust.
Greg was appointed principal clinical pharmacist (education and training) at St Helens and Knowsley Teaching Hospital NHS Trust in 2021, and sits on various local and national committees including various NHS England covid-19 groups.
He chaired the UK Clinical Pharmacy Association’s (UKCPA) critical care group from 2012 to 2021, and has been chair of the Faculty of Intensive Care Medicine (FICM) Pharmacy sub-group and an FICM Board since 2020.
He was awarded an MBE in 2021 for services to pharmacy particularly during the covid-19 pandemic.