It is no overstatement that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought immense change to people’s lives. Lockdown restrictions have ushered in a shift from office to home-based working and changes in levels of physical activity have seen more people seeking help from their community pharmacy for musculoskeletal (MSK) and joint pain. In fact, a recent survey found nearly one in three people are now more likely to visit a pharmacy for general advice before seeking help elsewhere[1,2].
MSK pain can have a substantial effect on quality of life — more than a third of the UK population aged over 45 years have sought treatment for osteoarthritis pain that has worsened mood and disturbed sleep, limiting activities of daily living. Mobility and function can be rapidly lost, especially in older people, making it difficult to regain muscle mass and rehabilitate. Patients are often left feeling frustrated and neglected.
A clear opportunity exists for community pharmacy to make a difference in the lives of patients. At a round table meeting on 10 July 2018 hosted by The Pharmaceutical Journal, a group of experts in MSK disorders — including GPs, physiotherapists and dieticians — reached a clear consensus that pharmacy should play a bigger role in supporting patients with joint pain.
Community pharmacists and their teams can respond to the needs of their patients by guiding pain relief and providing information about joint pain and lifestyle improvements, including exercises that ease pain and stiffness; it is this model of self-care that is most effective for mechanical joint conditions[4,6]. However, we also know that 30% of 699 pharmacists who responded to a 2018 PJ survey reported that lack of confidence and knowledge of appropriate joint pain management hindered their ability to provide exceptional patient care.
The Pharmaceutical Journal therefore embarked on an exciting journey to develop trusted and easy-to-use resources to guide pharmacy teams through the patient journey, from presentation to management and referral. Our joint pain management pathway highlights important concepts that facilitate clinical decision-making beyond the 7 and 14-day licensed use periods for topical non-steroidal inflammatory agents, providing evidence-based and expert-led recommendations for continuation, cessation or escalation of therapy.
In March 2021, we launched The Pharmacy Learning Centre on joint pain, as part of a partnership between The Pharmaceutical Journal and GSK, to provide free and open resources for pharmacy teams to better serve patients seeking advice for joint pain.
Now, we need your help to test our resources and apply your learning in practice.
We are searching for enthusiastic community pharmacists, pharmacy technicians and pharmacy assistants who are interested in developing specialist expertise in joint pain management to deliver outstanding patient-centred care to their local population and promote continuing professional development in community pharmacy.
You do not need to have prior knowledge or extensive clinical experience, but you will be required to regularly consult with patients with joint pain. We want to hear about your experiences implementing and adopting the joint pain materials into your daily practice, and what can be improved to provide better care for patients and support wider adoption across the community pharmacy sector, as more patients begin to think ‘Pharmacy First’.
To register your interest and find out more, please email firstname.lastname@example.org with your name, job title, affiliation and contact details. We look forward to working with you.
- 1Burns C. Third of patients visited community pharmacies in place of their GP during the COVID-19 pandemic, NPA survey finds. The Pharmaceutical Journal. 2020.https://pharmaceutical-journal.com/article/news/third-of-patients-visited-community-pharmacies-in-place-of-their-gp-during-the-covid-19-pandemic-npa-survey-finds (accessed Sep 2021).
- 2Wickware C. Nearly a third of people more likely to visit their pharmacy first following COVID-19 pandemic. The Pharmaceutical Journal. 2020.https://pharmaceutical-journal.com/article/news/nearly-a-third-of-people-more-likely-to-visit-their-pharmacy-first-following-covid-19-pandemic (accessed Sep 2021).
- 3State of musculoskeletal health 2018. Versus Arthritis. 2018.https://www.versusarthritis.org/media/12349/state-fo-msk-report-2018.pdf (accessed Sep 2021).
- 4Williams A. Pharmacy leaders must train and support teams to meet the needs of patients with joint pain. The Pharmaceutical Journal. 2019.https://pharmaceutical-journal.com/article/opinion/pharmacy-leaders-must-train-and-support-teams-to-meet-the-needs-of-patients-with-joint-pain (accessed Sep 2021).
- 5Robinson J. Experts to develop referral pathway to aid joint pain management in community pharmacy. The Pharmaceutical Journal. 2019.https://pharmaceutical-journal.com/article/news/experts-to-develop-referral-pathway-to-aid-joint-pain-management-in-community-pharmacy (accessed Sep 2021).
- 6Cottrell E, Stanford C, Quicke J, et al. Appropriate community pharmacy management of joint pain. The Pharmaceutical Journal. 2021.https://pharmaceutical-journal.com/article/ld/appropriate-community-pharmacy-management-of-joint-pain-2 (accessed Sep 2021).