Today is World Pharmacists Day (WPD) when we celebrate pharmacists' work and positive impact on the health system. Celebrating WPD is important to us as it goes all the way back to our roots – decades ago, as a community pharmacy. It is an event that gives us the opportunity to recognise our own team of pharmacists, working across our business, including at Smartway Pharmacy, our online pharmacy.
The theme this year, announced by The International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP), the global body representing over four million pharmacists, pharmaceutical scientists, and pharmaceutical educators, is 'Pharmacy Strengthening Health Systems'. It reminds us of pharmacists' important role during the COVID-19 crisis in participating in healthcare interventions such as testing, vaccination, treatment, and patient care.
Our pharmacists remember those critical months well. They supported and advised thousands of concerned and, at times, frightened patients in the local area. When the time had come and the weapon against the virus had been developed, our pharmacists spent hours volunteering to administer the vaccinations patients urgently needed.
Administering COVID-19 vaccinations was a personal commitment for me. With years of frontline experience and successful pharmacy operations, I knew it was important to step up. – Kirti Patel, Superintendent Pharmacist
Whilst the health system is still recovering from the stress caused by the pandemic, it is also in urgent need to meet future needs (FIP, 2023). Pharmacies have proven to be a powerful and effective resource for support, even at times of uncertainty and chaos. The demands on pharmacies are increasing. On this year’s WPD, FIP’s message is to 'let pharmacies do more', positioning it as an opportunity for an "intelligent solution" strengthening the health system and access to it.
As the most approachable healthcare professionals to patients, pharmacists’ roles are dynamic and multifaceted. Daily, they handle inquiries about side effects, they source specific medicines, and offer advice to alleviate discomfort, ensuring patients receive the best-suited care. They liaise with our healthcare professionals, to improve the health of their patients.
This WPD, we look at the daily role of our pharmacists, illustrating examples of the types of enquiries and challenges they resolve, emphasising the importance of their contributions to patient care.
Navigating patient challenges
The day of our pharmacists starts with responding to enquiries from patients and healthcare professionals. These enquiries encompass a range of topics, including questions about medication dosage, usage instructions, potential side effects, delivery options, and medication searches. It also involves speaking with other healthcare professionals, to ensure proper care of a patient.
In a recent example, we received an enquiry from a patient we supplied with an unlicensed medicine to treat their thyroid condition. They contacted our pharmacy after reading about our partnership with Thyroid UK, a charity we are working with to help patients access their needed medicine.
Shortly after beginning the treatment, the patient experienced a frustrating side effect: insomnia. Feeling restless and concerned about her inability to sleep, they contacted our pharmacy for guidance. With their understanding of medications and their effects, our pharmacist recommended adjusting the timing for the second dose of the same medication. This simple change proved highly effective in alleviating the patient's sleeping issues, allowing them to enjoy the restorative rest they needed to continue their treatment regimen comfortably and lead a productive day.
Enquiries about medicine shortages are frequently made to our pharmacists. Being owned by a pharmaceutical importer, wholesaler and distributor with almost three decades of experience and expertise in medicine shortages and an extensive global procurement network, our pharmacy can source and supply medicines that are in shortage to ensure patients do not go without.
Earlier this summer, we received a phone call from a patient searching for a medication in shortage. The patient needed medicines to manage their menopause-related symptoms. Despite visiting their local pharmacy and speaking with their GP surgery, they couldn't obtain the medication that they had been prescribed, as the government declared it in short supply. After contacting their prescriber and local pharmacist, our team were able to leverage Smartway’s capacity to promptly obtain the required medicine and ensured its delivery to her pharmacy the following day.
Our pharmacists supported many patients during this shortage, helping women ease the discomfort of menopause-related symptoms. Our committed team are ready to help patients whenever they face similar challenges in the future.
As pharmacists, our daily mission is to empower patients through knowledge and support. Whether it's addressing medication queries or sourcing medicines during shortages, we're here to ensure their well-being through every challenge. - Smit Modi, Pharmacy Manager
A pharmacist's role goes beyond communicating with patients; it also entails frequent interactions with fellow healthcare professionals, such as doctors, who rely on their expertise in medication management. Their daily routine involves meticulously checking prescriptions to ensure accuracy and appropriateness, including for contraindications. This essential practice not only safeguards patient well-being but also ensures that prescribed medications align with the highest safety and efficacy standards.
In a recent example highlighting the critical nature of this responsibility, a healthcare professional prescribed a medication for a patient and sent it to our pharmacy through SmartRx, our e-prescribing platform. Upon reviewing the prescription, our pharmacist noticed that the prescribed dose exceeded the recommended maximum amount indicated by the prescriber. Noticing this discrepancy prevented a potential medication error, underlining why it is crucial and an integral part of our pharmacists' daily routine to thoroughly check all prescriptions and medications, considering factors like combination, dosage, quantity, and strength, taking into account the patient's age and specific needs.
Caring for patients is a partnership, and as pharmacists, we stand at the intersection of that partnership, ensuring that the medications our patients receive are safe and optimised for their unique health needs. – Rupi Bhasin, Director of Digital Health/Pharmacist
Continuous Improvement Through Feedback
We strongly believe in continually improving our services to serve our patients better. To achieve this, our pharmacists collect valuable feedback from patients and healthcare professionals and take regular notes of processes and their own experiences. The feedback they collect is reviewed and discussed at their weekly meet-ups.
This collaborative approach allows us to pinpoint areas where improvements can be made, ensuring that our patients receive the highest level of care and satisfaction.
Happy World Pharmacists Day to all pharmacists worldwide and the colleagues who support them! We extend our warmest gratitude and appreciation to them for their committed work in ensuring the well-being of our communities.
If you are a patient or know someone needing medication, including those not available elsewhere, contact our pharmacy.
1. World Pharmacists Day 2023: Pharmacy Strengthening Health Systems (FIP, 2023 September 25) (https://www.fip.org/world-pharmacists-day)