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Relocating and experiencing community pharmacy in the UK – Milly’s story

A woman with blonde/brown hair smiles at the camera from behidn the pharmacy counter
Milly | February 15, 2024
Advice I would give to all my European Pharmacist colleagues is to welcome every challenge with enthusiasm and no fears.
A photo of Edinburgh shows blue skies and historic buildings

Hello, my name is Milly, a 27-year-old Italian Pharmacist who moved to Scotland in 2020.

Relocating to Edinburgh from Italy was a transformative experience for me – drawn by both professional opportunities and the chance to be with my partner, an Italian who had already made the move, I embraced the chance to work for Boots in community pharmacy, with the goal to continue my career as a Pharmacist here in the UK.

The initial shift from the lively streets of Italy to the historical charm of Edinburgh was quite overwhelming. The distinctive Scottish accent, bagpipers on the Royal Mile and the unpredictable weather were kind of extreme contrasts to my Italian roots. However, as I found myself in my role at Boots, I found comfort in the welcoming and diverse community that Edinburgh’s city centre offered. Also, the kindness of the Scottish people made me feel welcomed since day one.

Edinburgh is an extremely varied city and offers many activities for all tastes. One of my favourite activities is walking on Portobello beach on a Sunday morning. In the evening, my partner and I love to try different pubs and restaurants around the city where you will easily find both local and international cuisine. An unmissable event every August is the Fringe Festival and the marvellous show of the Military Tattoo at the castle.

On the left side a group of four women stand together on a beach. The image on the right shows a woman and man smiling behind the pharmacy counter

What are the main differences you’ve found with community pharmacy in the UK?

When I first started working for Boots, I was assigned to the Princes Street store, one of the largest here in Edinburgh. I was registered with the GPhC and able to work in the UK as a pharmacist but as I was new to practicing in the UK, I was mentored by two other Pharmacists for the first three months. Adapting to pharmaceutical practices in a new country posed its challenges, but my passion for the work and commitment to patient care quickly earned me the respect of both colleagues and patients.

The services that community pharmacies offer here in Scotland are certainly more than in Italy. The main difference is that Pharmacists can supply several medicines for specific conditions and all prescriptions are free for our patients! I had to complete all my online training to be able to supply medicine for UTI, skin infections, including impetigo and shingles, under Patient Group Directions (PGDs). PGDs are documents that allow Pharmacists to supply specific medicines that usually require a prescription for a specific condition, to patients who have a GP in Scotland and meet certain criteria that mean the supply is appropriate. Over-the-counter (OTC) medicines are also different, and I had to familiarise myself with many OTC products which are not even on the market in Italy.

Another particularly important service worth mentioning is Pharmacy First. Thanks to Pharmacy First the Pharmacist can supply many ‘P’ medicines, P (or Pharmacy) medicines are those that can be purchased from a pharmacy and do not normally require a prescription, for a wide variety of minor ailments. However, under the service, the patient doesn’t need to pay for the treatment meaning that this is a completely free service that really makes the difference for our patients, who receive immediate treatment without needing to go to the doctor.


How have you found your induction to Boots? How have you been supported?

I currently work as a Relief Pharmacist in three different stores across Edinburgh. I love being on the Relief team – it allows me to work with many different people and especially for me, being completely new at the beginning, this helped a lot to familiarise myself better with this totally new environment.

I really enjoy working for Boots, and the support I received as a newly qualified Pharmacist really made the difference for me. Boots provided comprehensive training programmes and assigned mentors, facilitating an easy integration into the team. There is an online platform called Boots Academy that you can access at any time, both at work and at home, with content that covers every topic, both clinical and related to Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and management processes.

The collaborative and patient-focused approach at Boots resonated with my professional values, bringing a sense of fulfillment to my daily responsibilities. With Boots you can be sure that you will always find yourself working with experienced people who know what they are doing and who are willing to help when you are dealing with something new. Nothing is really a problem; we always work as a team so we can tackle every issue together.

Beyond the pharmacy, I embraced the cultural richness of Edinburgh. The cobbled streets of the Old Town, the breathtaking views from Arthur’s seat, and the warmth of Scottish hospitality became integral parts of my new reality. My relocation was not just a change in location; it marked a chapter of personal and professional growth.


What advice would you give to a European Pharmacist thinking of moving to the UK?

Advice I would give to all my European Pharmacist colleagues is to welcome every challenge with enthusiasm and no fears. Adapting to a new system and working environment is not easy, especially when you are the Responsible Pharmacist.

I would recommend having mentors in the initial onboarding phase, as I had, because no matter how independent you feel you will need help and advice. Take your time to familiarise yourself with all the pharmacy services offered, in the country or area you will be working in.

I also suggest experiencing the city or town you choose to come to, to the fullest, try to make new friends, be curious about diverse cultures and, above all, be open to change. As my new home became familiar, so did the friendships I formed with colleagues and the connections I cultivated within the community. I discovered a new sense of belonging; one that transcended borders and blended the best of both Italian and UK worlds.


Find out more about New to UK Pharmacist opportunities at Boots here.

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