In the 32 years that Annette Larkin has worked in community pharmacy she’s served different generations of the same families, shown several new staff members the ropes, detected dozens of cases of undiagnosed diabetes and supported countless patients with their medicines. But thanks to the ever-changing nature of community pharmacy and the tight bonds within her team, Annette’s work has never got dull.
Annette ended up working in community pharmacy by lucky accident; she left school initially wanting to become a secretary. However, after attending a secretarial course, she decided to accept a six-month work placement at an independent community pharmacy on West Bromwich High Street through the Youth Training Scheme (YTS). She enjoyed the work and the people so much that she never looked back.
Annette has developed friendships with many customers who really trust her advice
About 10 years ago, the pharmacy was acquired by LloydsPharmacy, which resulted in a new look for the store and new training opportunities for the staff. “It was quite a big change to get used to all the training,” recalls Annette. “I did a healthcare assistant course, which involved 12 booklets and a lot of studying, but I passed with over 90 per cent.”
Acquiring her healthcare assistant qualification gave Annette the confidence to carry on training. She now takes part in regular product training and has recently embarked on a dispensing assistant course, which she hopes to complete in March.
There were further changes last year, when the pharmacy upped and moved premises from the high street to a brand new shopping complex at West Bromwich’s New Square. As one of LloydsPharmacy’s new concept stores, the pharmacy now has a special focus on the key categories of pain relief and skincare, and includes an open dispensary, interactive information points, a skin testing bay, clear signposting and a consultation room providing a wide range of services.
“This store has a much better layout and it makes it so much easier that all the GSL and P products are located together within each category,” explains Annette. “There is a large pain management section by the counter and we ask patients to describe their pain on a scale of one to 10 to give us an idea of what to recommend.”
Fortunately, the pharmacy’s older customers have had no trouble finding the team at the new location and are thrilled by the new “posh” store, she adds. Unsurprisingly, after 32 years, Annette has developed good friendships with many of her regular patients and customers, who really trust her advice and often ask for her by name. “Lots of the regulars treat me like family. Some people have been coming in since they were children and are now grown up with their own babies, which is lovely,” says Annette.
One aspect of her job that Annette finds particularly satisfying is providing Lloydspharmacy’s blood pressure monitoring and diabetes screening services to customers. After recruiting patients onto the diabetes screening service at the counter, Annette asks them to fill in a form and checks that they have not eaten in the last two hours, as this can lead to an elevated reading. She then leads them into the consultation room and puts them at ease before carrying out a finger-prick test to measure their blood glucose levels.
“I never use the first drop of blood as this isn’t pure so I wipe it away and use the next drop,” Annette explains. “If the reading is 6.0mmol/l or below then this means that they do not have diabetes, but if it is over 6.0mmol/l, we ask them to come back in two or three days’ time for a fasting test and if it is still high, we refer them to a doctor.”
Lots of the regulars treat me like family. Some people have been coming in since they were children and are now grown up with their own babies, which is lovely.
Since she has been providing the service, Annette has referred several patients to their GPs with high blood glucose readings and several of them have ended up being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. “It can be quite a shock to find out that you have diabetes, so we support the patients as much as we can,” says Annette. “They come back to us to get their prescription medicines and we also have a range of devices that we can recommend and show them how to use.”
Annette is also always on the lookout for patients who might benefit from a blood pressure measurement and she has identified people who weren’t aware that their blood pressure was high. She has also helped to sign up patients for the pharmacy’s flu vaccination service.
Besides signposting and delivering services, much of Annette’s day is spent in the dispensary, where she helps the dispensing team to make up medication for local nursing homes and medipacks for patients who have difficulty remembering to take their medicines. This work involves regular interaction with the staff at local GP surgeries and care homes, many of whom she has got to know well over the years.
For example, if a prescription item is out of stock, Annette may have to ring the GP to ask for a prescription for an alternative product to be faxed through, or she may need to take down the details of a new care home resident.
“We also do outreach events where we go to the nursing homes to show the staff our offers. It’s nice to have a change of scene and put names to faces,” she adds. Over the years, Annette has also built up a strong rapport with the rest of the pharmacy team and, as the longest serving staff member, she is always happy to show new starters around the pharmacy and welcome them into the wider LloydsPharmacy family. “It’s a really good team,” says Annette. “We always help each other out and I love working for LloydsPharmacy – everyone is so friendly.”