Suggested Learning

Self care: a year round mission

Self care is the topic of the moment and pharmacies are in prime position to spread the message and help protect the health of their communities

Self Care Week is an annual national awareness week that focuses on embedding support for self care across communities, families and generations. This year’s campaign, entitled ‘Choose Self Care for Life’ encouraged teams from across the healthcare landscape to help individuals in their community choose self care for a healthier, happier life. And pharmacy teams were among those spreading the message, in particular, Bedminster Pharmacy in Bristol.

With this year’s Self Care Week now at an end, Ade Williams, pharmacist at Bedminster Pharmacy, is urging pharmacy teams to continue to promote the importance of self care within their communities and link the key messages with ongoing campaigns and initiatives.

Pharmacy and self care

Research has shown that people who live in the poorest communities have the worst health outcomes, often resulting from inadequate health literacy. This means that there is little knowledge of how to self-treat minor ailments and this, compounded by negative lifestyle choices, is fuelling a rise in long-term health conditions.

But with 95 per cent of the population living within 20 minutes of a pharmacy and 70 per cent of those who visit a pharmacy not accessing other healthcare services, there’s a huge opportunity for pharmacy teams to take on this challenge and improve health outcomes through self care.

Ade says: “I think pharmacy’s role has always been looking at how we promote health and wellbeing in our communities. Self care is the best way to describe that and really one of the best opportunities that a self care agenda provides for us is that it gives us a unique role that nobody else has to play and it’s a role that increasingly is one that everyone appreciates the value of.”

Bedminster Pharmacy is situated in an area of Bristol with high social deprivation and Ade says that this means residents “are less able to access the best health”. But as an important and visible presence in heart of the community, the pharmacy has utilised the self care agenda to provide patients with “the resources in a very practical, tangible way that will allow them to actually look after themselves and their family and really our community,” Ade explains. He adds that this role is only going to get more important in the coming years as the resources for health and social care continue to be stretched.

Connecting the dots 

At this time of year when a large proportion of pharmacy efforts turn to flu vaccinations, Ade says that promoting this service and connecting it to self care is a no-brainer. “We know that the health of some of our patients really deteriorates in the winter months because they don’t know how to look after themselves properly. We also know that a lot of them suffer from fuel poverty and some of them don’t take up their flu vaccination so we start to break down some of those barriers,” says Ade. “And it’s not just with what we do in Self Care Week, but over a period of months and years we’ve built up a relationship where we can challenge them on those issues and offer the opportunity to ask us questions and we can help as much as we can.”

But it’s not just flu. This year, Ade and his team linked Self Care Week with Ask Your Pharmacist Week, which ran the week before; World Diabetes Day on 14 November; and Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month, which runs throughout November.

In addition, more than 8,300 pharmacies in England – including Bedminster – now carry the level 1 healthy living pharmacy status, the ethos of which centres around pharmacy’s intrinsic self care role and proactive approach to health.

“In communities where there is poor health education, they are less aware of the preventative measures that they can take and other services that exist. It’s about linking all those things together,” Ade says. He therefore highlights the importance of promoting pharmacy services, such as stop smoking and weight management, as well as making use of opportunistic diagnostic testing such as blood pressure checks and health screenings.

Ade says his whole team gets involved in this promotion and offers continued guidance so that customers are aware of the positive lifestyle changes they can make to prevent avoidable diseases and improve their health and wellbeing, and are supported to do so. 

“We have a team who are very consciously taking on the role of health and wellbeing advocates in our community,” Ade says, adding, “I’m in a very fortunate place where I have a team of people who really are very caring.”

Antibiotic alert

Antibiotics do not help get rid of colds and flu. This warning has been front and centre in the healthcare landscape for many years. And with antimicrobial resistance a growing threat, and Public Health England’s ‘Keep Antibiotics Working’ campaign in full swing, now is a key time to promote these messages.

Keep Antibiotics Working educates people about the risks of antibiotic resistance, urging them to always take healthcare professionals’ advice as to when they need antibiotics. The campaign also provides effective self care advice to help individuals and their families feel better if they are not prescribed antibiotics.

Click here to find out more about the campaign and how to get resources.

Building relationships

As with much of community pharmacy’s work, Ade says a multi-disciplinary approach can be of great benefit when it comes to self care.

Speaking before Self Care Week 2018, Ade said: “What we’re very keen to do [this year] is to look not just at what we’re doing as a pharmacy but look at how it becomes a much more collaborative endeavour across the whole health economy of our community. Because then for the patient, it’s important that they know that the self care message is one that’s shared by all healthcare professionals and it’s one that is of great benefit for them.”

Bedminster Pharmacy has a close relationship with the GP surgeries in the area, partly down to a magazine column penned by Ade. “I write a column in one of our local magazines and the aim of it is that the column exists to reduce the pressure on GP surgeries. I know that in the past [patients have] taken that to the GP and showed them it and I think little things like that have really changed the dynamic of our relationships with them. We’re seen to be championing self care and championing the benefits for patients and for the GPs and that means that there’s a greater reception to what we’re doing.”

Ade’s aim is for the pharmacy to be “seen as a partner and increasingly as an asset in the local health economy” and work with other healthcare colleagues to promote a pharmacy-centred message for the treatment of minor ailments. Collaborating with GPs will be an important starting point.

It’s not too late

Ade says there are two reasons to get involved in promoting the self care agenda during Self Care Week and beyond.

Firstly, defining what community pharmacy is all about. Ade highlights that recent efforts by NHS England and industry bodies to bring much more prominence to community pharmacy’s role have been beneficial, but there is a lot more that can be done at grassroots level. 

“I think really that the expertise and training that pharmacy teams have, has always been the facilitator of self care so self care is something that we need to continue to define as something that pharmacies do and not allow that to be lost in the midst of everything else that we’re doing,” Ade explains. “And if you do that very well, even if the landscape changes – if the way we provide some of our services becomes more competitive in terms of different models and changes in regulation for example – your value in the eyes of the patient is completely secure.”

Secondly, personalisation – both in terms of the community and individuals. As there is no set approach to self care promotion, pharmacies are able to tailor their approach to the local demographic and focus on aspects of health that are most pertinent. “Self care is such a dynamic concept and means different things to different parts of the community and different parts of the country,” says Ade. “It’s about us using our expertise, the products that exist, the knowledge that we have, the information that’s available and doing that in the communities but in a very responsive way.”

This year, Bedminster Pharmacy worked with local retailers; particularly those that cater to the area’s large eastern European community, to explain how pharmacies promote and support self care and serve as a gateway to the NHS. 

Ade adds: “Our patients will know that nobody does more for them and their health than we do and that’s because of their own personal experience [in our pharmacy]. The self care agenda allows you to easily deliver a personalised service because it’s self care – it’s your care. It’s me helping you to get the best health outcome, whatever is going on.”

Brand new resources

A new vitamin D factsheet  – the first in a new range from the Self Care Forum – was launched during Self Care Week to help healthcare professionals and their patients understand various vitamins and minerals and discuss why diet and nutrition is an important part of self care.

This first factsheet provides clear and reliable information on why vitamin D is so important, where it is found, the recommended intakes and how to spot deficiency.

Commenting on the launch, Dr Selwyn Hodge, Self Care Forum co-chair, said: “The Self Care Forum is delighted to be launching a range of nutrition factsheets to help pharmacists and other healthcare professionals to have important conversations with people about nutrition. Self Care Week takes place just as the cold and dark months are starting to set in, so it is the ideal time for people to ask their pharmacist about vitamin D supplements.”

Raising the profile

As with all campaigning, getting the message out as widely as possible is important to success. Last year, Bedminster Pharmacy teamed up with the local ITV news channel to communicate messages around the flu vaccine, promoted their efforts on social media and also invited shadow health secretary Jon Ashworth to visit the pharmacy. This year, Ade joined the CCG clinical chair and CCG dietitian in a two-hour radio programme to promote Self Care Week and discuss how the public can best look after themselves with the help and support of the pharmacy team.

All of the pharmacy’s Self Care Week activities have significant benefits for both themselves and the wider community. “We have improved job satisfaction, a higher profile of the pharmacy’s expertise, a better understanding of our role within the broader NHS health and social care context, and joined up working with third sector and patient advocates,” Ade explains. “We also build up trust with patients and then that’s also good commercially because it allows you to build services and make the most of the value that the trust brings to your business.”

Could you be a winner?

The annual Self Care Week Award recognises outstanding self care achievements. Organisations, including community pharmacies are encouraged to submit applications explaining what they did to promote Self Care Week, how they did it and what they achieved.

There’s a £500 bursary for self care activities up for grabs, so if your pharmacy was involved, what are you waiting for? 

Click here to find out more about the award criteria and enter.

The self care agenda allows you to easily deliver a personalised service because it’s self care – it’s your care

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