With community pharmacies under increasing pressure to offer more services, Leanne Beverley considers the crucial role of support staff 

Community pharmacies offer an array of services these days. In addition to essential and advanced services, many now offer a number of enhanced services. Often, these start as pilots, set up to ascertain whether there is a local need, and the success of the pilot determines whether the service is rolled out locally or nationally.

In Coventry, a blood-borne virus screening pilot was recently commissioned by Coventry City Council. The Coventry HIV Point of Care Testing pharmacy pilot aims to increase the number of HIV tests undertaken in Coventry, especially in at-risk groups. We also have a locally commissioned tuberculosis (TB) community pharmacy service, which ensures availability of specialist TB medicines, and we offer this service at Monarch Pharmacy. The pharmacist has a one-to-one consultation with the patient at each collection to talk through any concerns. 

Although all patient group directions (PGDs) require a pharmacist to deliver them, the same cannot be said about all enhanced services. Most phlebotomy services, for example, are run by pharmacy support staff, not pharmacists. At Monarch Pharmacy, this service is very popular, regularly attracting more than 30 patients per three-hour session, and is led by a pharmacy technician. The multi-tasking of this alongside her responsibilities in the dispensary has given her a new skill and helped increase her job satisfaction, but it is also fantastic for the pharmacy as a business. 

With funding cuts constantly on everyone’s mind, a service like this really helps to promote the importance of pharmacy and helps to bring customers in to access the other services we offer. Patients have a one-to-one appointment with the phlebotomist, and we have a chance to tell them about our repeat management service. We can also ask if they would like to nominate us to receive their prescriptions electronically, or even offer them a medicines use review. 

Our stop smoking service is another example, which myself and a dispensing assistant run. We have achieved the highest number of quitters across the 64 pharmacies in Coventry for the past five and a half consecutive years. Monarch’s reputation for this service is now well known in the city, which is excellent, and the number of customers we have helped quit smoking is something to be proud of.

In the coming months and years, we will be expected to offer more services to make up for cuts on dispensing medicines. And what better way to achieve this than to utilise the skills and expertise of support staff who are already familiar with the patients and able to promote and deliver these services? This is a vital way for support staff to enhance not only their pharmacy career, but community pharmacy as a whole.

Leanne is an accuracy checking pharmacy technician and supervisor at Monarch Pharmacy, Coventry. She is an NVQ/BTEC assessor for pharmacy training providers, including the NPA and Scientia Skills.

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