National pharmacy organisations joined forces in November to showcase the important role community pharmacy can play during the winter months.
The Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) and the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) held a parliamentary reception at Westminster to raise awareness among MPs and offer them a health check.
Community pharmacists across the UK were also encouraged, as part of the #pharmacywinter action day, to invite patients, local councillors and MPs to their branches.
The event will build on the success of this year’s flu vaccination programme, during which community pharmacists have already delivered more than 1.1 million jabs, compared with just over 950,000 in the whole of last year.
Activities, which were widely promoted on social media under #pharmacywinter, culminated in a Twitterchat co-hosted by the PSNC and WePharmacists.
Zoe Long, head of communications and public affairs at the PSNC, said: “Community pharmacies play a vital role in helping both local communities and the NHS to manage during winter, and as we head into the season with NHS services already “at full stretch”, that support has never been more important. The #pharmacywinter action day was an opportunity to make this case to politicians, both local and national.
“From helping people to get the most from their medicines, offering advice on healthy lifestyles, or providing flu vaccinations, the #pharmacywinter campaign showed how community pharmacy can support people’s health during the winter months and reduce pressure on other NHS services.”
The Pharmaceutical Journal caught up with pharmacists and community pharmacy advocates who got involved in the day.
Briefing Parliament on the value of community pharmacy
Courtesy of Bob Severn and Holly Lynch
More than 30 MPs and their researchers attended a parliamentary drop-in session where they were briefed on community pharmacy and offered a medicines check. Rob Severn, pharmacist and chair of Nottinghamshire local pharmaceutical committee (LPC), (pictured with Robert Jenrick, MP for Newark and Bingham) explained to MPs the benefits of pharmacists having access to summary care records: “I explained how read/write access will drive future improvements and asked for their support with this.”
Labour MP for Halifax Holly Lynch, who used to work in her local pharmacy, welcomed the opportunity to see community pharmacy take an ever-bigger part in efforts to manage the increasing demand for healthcare over winter.
Scott Mann, Conservative MP for North Cornwall, said: “Community pharmacy is more than just a place to get medicines. It offers a package of care … not just packets of pills!”
Starting wintertime conversations with patients
Courtesy of Sadik Al Hassan
“One of community pharmacy’s most important attributes is our unparalleled access to patients and their access to us. During winter, we can do so much to help promote self-treatment and keep our patients healthy. This was the theme of the #pharmacywinter campaign we ran in our branch, where, over just one week, we had 150 conversations with patients on staying well this winter. We gave handy tips and put together summary leaflets for patients to take home. Keeping patients well during the winter also reduces pressure on the wider health service, and the promotion of self-care is more important than ever. We have continued the campaign since the day itself, and, to date, we have had more than 300 conversations with patients.”
Delivering winter prescriptions to housebound patients
Courtesy of Usmaan Hafiz
“Our healthy living pharmacy provides lifestyle advice, runs monthly, themed health campaigns (winter health for November and December), and an in-pharmacy smoking cessation service, NHS health checks, medicine use reviews and flu vaccinations. On #pharmacywinter action day, I discussed with a customer the cold symptoms that they had been experiencing for the past couple of days. I recommended an over-the-counter product for sinusitis and advised the patient to see a GP if the symptoms did not improve within a few days. I also administered flu vaccinations — a gentleman with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and his wife, were pleased that they could have a ‘no appointment necessary’ flu jab, rather than making an appointment with their GP. During the winter months, many of our elderly or housebound patients struggle to leave their homes. On #pharmacywinter action day, a GP made a home visit to a patient and issued a prescription; at the patient’s request, the GP called into the pharmacy and asked us to deliver the medication as soon as possible.”
Get your flu jab without an appointment
Courtesy of Amanda Smith
“On #pharmacywinter action day, we displayed posters and created a window display encouraging people to find out more about their local pharmacy, and we posted lots of information on our Facebook page. We had a visit from Stephen Baines MBE, one of our local councillors, who thought it was fantastic that patients could pop in for a flu jab at their convenience. We stressed how under-utilised community pharmacy is, and how keen we are to contribute more, but we are under threat from cuts to funding. Community pharmacy is an essential local resource and does so much for patients, but we do this work very quietly and discreetly. We need to blow the dust off our trumpets and start blowing them loudly in the same direction.”
Keeping people warm and minimising hospital admissions
Courtesy of Ade Williams
“At our pharmacy, we work hard with other local health colleagues to create a collective narrative of the benefits of the NHS flu vaccination campaign; this easy-to-access service gained the support of Labour MP and shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth during his visit earlier this year. On #pharmacywinter action day, ITV South West News broadcast a feature that we had helped to produce. The snippet highlighted a cold home support and referral service, which our pharmacy set up in partnership with local charity Centre for Sustainable Energy to reduce winter patient admissions to hospital and raise awareness of the ways pharmacies support their communities. The collaborative service tackles fuel poverty by offering free support materials and expert referral to enable patients to reduce energy costs, access home insulation adaptations and receive training on running boilers and storage heaters efficiently. Many vulnerable patients who had been referred had comorbidities, and respiratory conditions were the most common. Go to http://bit.ly/2kuUeKT and scroll to the bottom of the page to watch the feature.”
Pharmacy cross still lit up on Christmas Day
Courtesy of Thorrun Govind
“For #pharmacywinter action day, I encouraged patients to plan ahead for ordering their medication in preparation for the Christmas period, and gave advice on self care. Many patients are still coming into the pharmacy for flu vaccinations, and this is an excellent opportunity to talk about how and where they can access healthcare services over the Christmas and New Year period. And, like many colleagues up and down the country, I’ll be working on Christmas Day to ensure that patients always have access to a healthcare professional.”