Bob Dunkley is a retired pharmacist who we have supported through his addiction struggles. Here, Bob graciously shares his story with us in the hope to help others who may be struggling in our pharmacy family.
Pharmacist Support have assisted me through a period of severe financial hardship and helped me on my journey towards returning to the register. I could not have achieved what I have so far without their financial help, encouragement and advice.
My name is Joseph* and over 10 years ago I was working as a pharmacist manager and became recognised for my dedication to my role. I undertook extra responsibilities gladly and enjoyed serving the local community.
Being young at that time, I had just bought my first house with my partner and we were looking forward to our future together. Unexpectedly and suddenly my partner suffered a severe and long-lasting medical episode. This took a drastic toll on my mental health and eventually led to addiction issues and a subsequent investigation by the former regulatory body RPSGB.
Although I engaged with healthcare professionals and support services, my adherence to appointments deteriorated and I began neglecting my professional responsibilities. I felt unable to attend a fitness to practice hearing and was removed from the register for a number of issues relating to my practice. I became depressed to the point where I neglected everything, including my own health and relationship with my family. Later, I lost my house and car due to financial troubles, and my only way to deal with the situation was intoxication and denial.
Eventually, with the support of my family, I received the treatment I needed through counselling and residential rehab.
Obtaining funding for rehab via Social Services was a lengthy procedure that eventually took years, having to first gather evidence to demonstrate my commitment to change. Upon completion of rehab, I finally felt in the position where I could consider the possibility of returning to the profession. Meanwhile, I started volunteering to support other individuals with addiction issues and multiple complex needs.
Beginning the journey towards return to practice felt very daunting, especially having been out of the profession for so long.
The GPhC recommended reaching out to Pharmacist Support for support and advice. The charity initially provided financial assistance for me to attend the CPPE Return to Practice Residential Course. They later supported me financially to attend the CPPE Return to Register Workshop and provided financial assistance towards my GPhC restoration application fee.
I was also put in touch with their contacts at the Citizens Advice Bureau for further financial assistance and with another contact who provided legal representation for my restoration hearing. This contact has a wealth of experience, giving me sound advice on completing my portfolio of evidence for the restoration process.
The journey towards returning to practice and then bringing my knowledge up to date was no easy task.
However, with the help from Pharmacist Support, I was able to start the ball rolling. After I completed the Return to Practice Course, I was eligible for a 4-week Return to Practice Placement under supervision of a pharmacist mentor to allow me to put into practice what I had learned during the course. I extended this by volunteering within the organisation, including during the Covid-19 pandemic. I have since been approached by senior management who may be interested in recruiting me as a Relief Manager, depending on business needs and successful restoration to the register.
Pharmacist Support has been with me at every stage and I have kept them up to date with my progress. They helped me to face my financial difficulties and make a plan to overcome them. This can be difficult, especially when focusing on the restoration application. Even though it was a lengthy process, sometimes just talking to the charity about my ideas and progress with my restoration portfolio has helped me to stay focused and motivated.
Since being drug-free for many years, I have found that my mental health has significantly improved. This led me to also stop drinking alcohol about two years ago, and I’m feeling the benefits of this too. I find that I have greater emotional resilience and improved ability to focus on long-term goals objectively. However, it was only with the help from Pharmacist Support that enabled me to see these goals materialise.
My advice to anyone who may benefit from contacting Pharmacist Support would be to do so at the earliest possible time.
One of my regrets is not contacting them earlier as their expertise may have allowed me to address my mental health and addiction issues at an earlier date. Now, I eagerly await contact from the GPhC to hopefully move forward to a restoration hearing. My long-term goal is to return to the profession as a pharmacist and use what I have learned along my journey to support others who are struggling.
*We have used a pseudonym to protect Joseph’s identity.
Pharmacist Support offers financial assistance towards essential expenditure in times of difficulty may be provided to pharmacists and their families, trainee pharmacists and MPharm students. If you are currently experiencing financial difficulties, do not hesitate to contact us on 0808 168 2233 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org . We can help you assess whether an application for financial assistance is the best route and discuss what other support might be available for you. We are here to listen and to help in confidence.