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Snowmageddon: pharmacy did great, but we could have done better

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David Steele, locum pharmacist

THE Beast From The East has been a worthy adversary, but due to some sterling efforts from colleagues it’s just possible pharmacy has won on points.

A Red Alert throughout most of our central and southern regions warned of a danger to life and that we should avoid travelling to work. Despite the risks, many pharmacy staff went to extreme efforts to make sure they were open and available to the most vulnerable and needy members of our community.

Throughout Wednesday and Thursday I heard stories of tractors, quad bikes, staff staying in hotels, pharmacies being open long past every other retailer or NHS worker had gone home, or even just getting the wellies on and walking several miles.

In some cases it wasn’t enough, with shops remaining closed or only able to open for a few hours.

Where was the leadership?
Travelling home along the empty roads I wondered if we could have done more and also been better organised, not only for the benefit of the patients, but for the safety of our staff. We were all aware of the impending snow, and we were given plenty of notice about the Yellow and Amber warnings. At that point possibly contingencies could have been put in place in the event of a Red Alert.

Instead of being a Lloyds, Boots or independent pharmacist we could have kept pharmacists in their own locality and set up restricted, but defined times within these areas when a pharmacist would be available in each shop.

Addiction services could have been contacted and allowed three days of medication for service users to avoid the sometimes futile calls to mobiles that have long-since run out of credit.

A quick, simple information campaign (local and national, and embracing not only traditional media, but also social media) outlining the possible restrictions in service with all aspects of NHS healthcare would have benefitted pharmacy immensely.

Instead of fielding repeat medication queries and endless non-urgent phone calls during the shortened day, with less staff, we would have been able to deliver more prescriptions and liaise with other healthcare professionals that were available to maximise our efforts.

Talking of which, against all the odds, I managed to open a pharmacy for 2 hours on Thursday, only to have head office phone me and ask for the monthly figures…

We use these types of procedures during the Christmas and New Year period, so it shouldn’t be too difficult to implement.

However, we were all left to struggle on ourselves without a cohesive plan, do what we could and help wherever possible, there was a serious lack of guidance from our pharmacy leaders. We did great, but we could have done so much better.

Many thanks to all the workers I met this week who provided a warm welcome and showed unflinching dedication to their work and patients. We don’t have the luxury of working from home or having a “snow day”.

We are pharmacy staff.


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