The views expressed in this letter are those of the author’s. If you would like to submit a letter to The Pharmaceutical Journal, please click here.
If I had been asked this question a couple of years ago, I would have answered: “Totally, utterly!”
For nearly 20 years, I put my whole heart into my job. I spent a lot of time with patients, explaining changes and counselling them on their medications during their hospital stay. I was kind and friendly, and good at building rapport.
In January 2019, as part of a research grant application, I ran two patient and carer focus groups to explore perceptions of the impact of technology on medicines use in secondary care. This was a defining moment in my career — it was a moment in time where my professional world stopped, as I realised that despite my whole-hearted efforts, I hadn’t been getting it right. My focus and approach was wrong.
But the focus group discussion wasn’t just about me; it was a reflection of what our profession, in the main, offers. The patients who joined us were not ear-bashing or venting: they were genuinely lovely people who wanted to share their experiences to improve NHS services for future generations.
‘Shared decision-making’ and ‘understanding the lived experience’ are not new terms, yet I heard how poorly supported and included patients and carers felt in decisions and discussions about medicines. I heard how decisions made with the very best of intentions by clinical teams providing evidenced-based medicine had such a huge impact on a patient’s quality of life. I realised that we often do not see this as it happens out of sight, and we don’t seek to know or understand. The reasons for this are multifaceted, but I was utterly devastated to realise that my years of undergraduate and postgraduate training had left me ill-equipped to have the conversations that patients needed to empower and enable them to get the best from their medicines.
To share my story, I joined a like-minded team of pharmacy practitioners, patients and carers through the Royal Pharmaceutical Society in West Yorkshire. This is where I met Andrew, a patient partner. Andrew has shared his experience and perspective on the effects of not being involved in decisions about his care. It is truly moving. I would encourage you to read his piece with an open mind and heart, and to stop and reflect on your own practice. If you would like to read or hear more, look out for a national Royal Pharmaceutical Society event exploring patient partnership working in late January 2021.
Angela Burgin, advanced clinical pharmacist for ePrescribing, Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust