Pharmacists are the unsung heroes of the medical world. We all know that their main role is dispensing prescriptions and other medicines, but there is so much more to their job that, a lot of the time, people don’t recognise or appreciate. pharmacists are going the extra mile everyday to make sure that people – whether they be suffering from a long-term condition, fighting a one-off virus or perfectly healthy – are receiving the best quality of care and medical information possible.
To shed some light on all the different ways your pharmacist could help you on your health journey, the not-so-obvious ways in which pharmacists up and down the country have been going the extra mile for their communities. And it’s pretty impressive.
1. Save you a trip to the doctor / hospital
In 2012, a survey by Cancer Research UK revealed that almost a quarter of Brits put off seeing their doctor altogether because of the hassle of getting an appointment or because they feel they would be wasting the doctor’s time. It’s in situations like this where your pharmacist could step in.
2. Change referral paths
A lot of people who suffer complex and ongoing conditions have to go through a long-winded referral system before they can get the medicines they need. Esther Wong decided that something had to be done about the way in which neurology patients were getting their prescriptions, as they often required additional help, counsel or new therapies. Esther’s new referral pathway sees hospital patients referred by their consultant to see both a specialist pharmacist and nurse, meaning the patient has the expertise of two healthcare professionals who can see the patients more regularly and monitor them more closely.
3. Be there in an emergency
Nobody can predict when an accident or emergency is going to happen, and sometimes getting to a hospital isn’t a realistic option. Heather Donaldson set a great example of how pharmacists can help in a crisis when she came to the aid of a patient who had broken their insulin delivery pen on a bank holiday Monday. Upon realising the patient had been without insulin for three days, having broken the pen on Friday, she arranged an appointment with the out-of-hours clinic. The patient was seen within the hour.
A patient’s mission to get a prescription in the middle of the night inspired Zafar Khan to open his pharmacy 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. He often helps patients who otherwise would have gone to A&E and in one such case he was able to prevent an infection by dressing a patient’s badly cut and swollen knee.Advertisement – Continue Reading Below
4. Achieve a better quality of life
You don’t need to reserve pharmacy visits for when you’re ill or need medication – they can also advise and help you lead a better lifestyle, no matter what your health situation is. Peter Kelly’s ‘5 Simple Steps to Healthy Living’ epitomises this aim, educating patients on the ‘sleep, exercise, diet, having fun and relaxation’. In his role as a pharmacist, Peter volunteers his time to present highly entertaining and educational workshops to students at various colleges.
Pharmacies can also help patients tackle issues such as addiction, which is exactly what Olutayo Arikawe does at her pharmacy in some of the most deprived areas of Dudley. Olutayo organised training for her team so they could carry out health promotion sessions in and outside the pharmacy (for example libraries, community centres, gyms and other work places), including alcohol interventions. Olutayo’s team give advice to patients who find it difficult to drink within the required limits, provide support using alcohol diaries or booklets and refer alcoholic-dependent patients on to specialists.
Another example comes in the form of Kate Thomas, who went the extra mile to help a customer turn his life around by providing advice and encouragement to help him come off diabetic medication completely, a transformation which saw the patient lose 50% of his body weight in two years. This encouraged the patient to live a much healthier lifestyle and he is now a Weightwatcher’s leader in his spare time.Advertisement – Continue Reading Below
Kevin Jones harnessed the ability to help patients lead healthier lifestyles by developing a health information form. The form captures information on blood pressure, smoking status, alcohol intake, diet and exercise in order to identify where people needed additional support from him or other sources. He has found that since introducing this service patients are more likely to ask for advice and many find it so useful that they look forward to their next review.
5. Help tackle critical illnesses
Not only do pharmacists help us with daily prescriptions, but they can also play a huge part in helping people combat life-threatening conditions. David De Montford-Robb is a specialist in intensive care medicine, providing expert pharmaceutical care for patients with seizures, septicaemia, and other critical illnesses. As a lead pharmacist, David is also responsible for redesigning care pathways to ensure safe, economic and effective use of medicines across the organisation.
Catherine McKenzie also works in critical care, devising patient treatment plans and prescribing medication to ensure the safe and effective use of medications for critically ill patients in the intensive care unit. Catherine and her team also manage patients who are in life threatening situations and are often hallucinating, agitated or scared. Catherine’s role involves counselling patients and reassuring them that their hallucinations are false and they are safe.
6. Monitor and improve medicines over time
Dispensing and monitoring medication is complex, and by no means falls into the ‘on size fits all’ category. That’s why it’s so helpful to have a pharmacist who can monitor your prescriptions over time and alert you when they think changes should be made. Using her independent prescribing skills, Bernadette Brown helps patients via medicine reviews. For example, a patient who was often breathless due to asthma was given a review where Bernadette discovered that the patient was struggling with the inhaler. Following changes to the patient’s prescription, symptoms were alleviated.Advertisement – Continue Reading Below
Mala Khiroya also worked with asthma patients after noticing that many of them required support in order to make the most of their inhalers. She counsels asthmatics, checking and rectifying their inhaler techniques whilst liaising regularly with GPs and nurses to make sure they stay healthy. An example of an intervention Mala has made was when she changed a suffering patient’s usual prescription for a different type of inhaler. As a result, they found that the new inhaler significantly reduced the patient’s exacerbations.
Leela Terry also carries out full assessments of patients (specifically those suffering from inflammatory bowel disease) to make sure they are prescribed the right medicine for their condition and guiding them through their medication options. Medicines for IBD have become increasingly complex and carry risks of serious side effects, so Leela’s expertise in identifying drug interactions is essential as she is able to identify issues and ensure patients are taking their medication as prescribed.
Pharmacists also have a critical role in making sure that medicines prescribed to care home residents are appropriate and safe. Jonathan Smith worked with a number of care homes to introduce a new technological system that enables him to identify medication issues as they arise, reducing the risk of hospital admissions due to antibiotic resistance and other problems. This replaces an outdated system, which relied on periodical visits.Terry VineGetty Images