Q. What do pharmacy staff do all day? A. Count tablets into bottles? X No
Dispensing prescriptions is only a small part of the daily activity of pharmacy staff. The Pharmacists and Pharmacy technicians’ role is to ensure that service users get the best out of their medicines (Medicines Optimisation).
This means service users understanding their medication, how it works, when they should take it, what side effects may be experienced and how to minimise them.
On admission to hospital the pharmacy technicians will contact, with the person’s permission, the service user’s GP or look at the ‘Summary Care Record’ in order to find out the current medication that the service user is prescribed. This is then checked with the service user or carer to ensure it is correct. Sometimes people are prescribed medication but for various reasons do not take it. The pharmacy staff will explore with the service user why they decide not to take a medication and if it is because of side effects then they can advise on ways to minimise these.
Mistakes are often made around medication when people move from one care setting to another ie from home to hospital or on discharge back home or when transferred to different hospitals. This is why it is very important to bring your medicines into hospital with you if you are admitted or have an outpatient appointment. This means the Dr, nurse or pharmacist can check that the medication is correct.
Giving information about medication is an essential role for Pharmacy staff and helping service users make a decision about their choice of medication where appropriate. The website www.choiceandmedication.org/leedsandyorkpft/ can help in making these decisions. The website has all the common psychiatric conditions and medication used to treat them. The format of the website is user-friendly and can be used by service users or carers on their own or in discussion with their healthcare professional. Leaflets about the medication can also be printed off.
The pharmacy department operates a ‘Telephone Help Line’ 9am to 5am Monday to Friday (0113 8555534 for Leeds and 0113 8550591 for York) for service users, carers, GPs and community pharmacists to contact a pharmacist for advice about medication.
The pharmacy staff also check that relevant blood tests have been carried out for example for Lithium and Clozapine. We check that other tests have been done like ECGs if a service user is prescribed an antipsychotic. The pharmacy staff will also ask you about whether you smoke, this is because some medication is affected by smoking and blood levels of medication can be changed depending on how many cigarettes you smoke each day, or if you stop smoking.
A service user’s physical health is as important as their mental health and so the pharmacy staff will ask you if you have had relevant physical health checks, like weight, cholesterol levels, blood pressure checks either at your GP or in a LYPFT clinic.
Sometimes a doctor will ask a pharmacist to help advise them regarding a service user’s medication. This might be because the current medication is not working well, or side effects are troublesome. The pharmacy staff will collate a drug history using all the past and current medical and nursing notes, maybe from many years before in order to get a picture of previous therapy and how well or not it worked. The pharmacist would then give advice to the doctor on the best options for future treatment.
In summary, Pharmacy staff are here to help you get the best out of your medicines, do not hesitate to use them.
Elaine Weston, Chief Pharmacist