Pharmacy and carers - a partnership mobilised to fight flu

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05 / 10 / 2015 10.40am

Neil Mowbray is a superintendent pharmacist at Newland Community Pharmacy in Hull. 

We are situated on a busy high street in the heart of the local community, and provide a number of NHS services including free flu vaccinations for all unpaid carers. 

Highlighting support to carers at local pharmacies is important to me, which is why we took part in the Carer Friendly Pharmacy pilot in 2014/15.

The aim of the pilot, which was funded by the Department of Health, was to increase help for carers in primary care and community settings. As pharmacies are probably the most accessible health service, this enabled us to promote health messages and raise awareness of services, and we jumped at the chance to get involved.

Pharmacies are convenient as scheduled appointments are not needed. This is especially handy for carers, who can visit the pharmacy at a time to suit them.

Therefore, we often see our patients far more regularly than an average GP - collecting their monthly prescriptions, buying cold remedies and toiletries, or just popping in for a chat. With this comes the advantage of really getting to know the customer and being aware of the support they may require. 

Taking part in the pilot encouraged us to start conversations with our patients about flu and other wellness messages. The initial conversation could be tricky as some people do not want to be defined as a carer. Fortunately we had plenty of positive feedback. One lady stated that the help we provided was invaluable during the palliative stages of her husband’s illness.  It’s this kind of story that makes you feel you have achieved something worthwhile about the role, albeit a small one, that you can play in this area.

We actively promoted the flu vaccination in the pharmacy - one of our staff members became a dedicated flu helper, we displayed posters, handed out leaflets and ran adverts on our in-store TV screens.  

Working on the frontline of healthcare, myself and my team are also vaccinated each winter. Through receiving these vaccinations, we’re able to draw on our own experience to ease any lingering doubts that carers may have about getting the jab.

However, flu vaccinations are like Marmite - people either love them or hate them depending on their first experience.  Some people blame the jab for giving them flu which we know is impossible, since the flu vaccine doesn't contain a live virus. Either that, or the fear of the needle gets the better of them. (It’s a small needle, I promise, one big breath and it’s over with - you will hardly feel it!)

We are pleased that our local clinical commissioning group has seen the value of pharmacy offering the flu vaccination service and recommissioned it for the 2015/16 flu season. 

Hopefully the flu and carer services can be the start of more opportunities for our pharmacy, helped by winning the NHS flu fighter carers’ award, but the profession as a whole.  There is an army of willing volunteers out there waiting to be mobilised to fight flu.

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