Ask Your Pharmacist Week – an annual initiative by the National Pharmacy Association (NPA) and the NHS to build public understanding of community pharmacy services and the role of pharmacists started on Monday.
The theme of this year’s Ask Your Pharmacist Week is ‘Your local pharmacy in the NHS family’.
NPA Head of Communications, Stephen Fishwick, said:
“During the coronavirus pandemic, community pharmacy teams have worked unstintingly on the health service frontline to provide great patient care in difficult circumstances, alongside colleagues from other professions.
“This year’s Ask Your Pharmacist week is a chance to further establish in the public’s mind that community pharmacies are a key member of the NHS family.
“The better it’s understood that community pharmacies are part of the NHS team, the more people will be willing to access NHS services in pharmacies and support the further development of integrated, patient-centred care.”
Chief Executive of Community Pharmacy NI, Gerard Greene said:
“Ask Your Pharmacist Week is a welcome opportunity for us all to take a step back and look at our health service and the hugely important role that is played on the ground by local community pharmacies, as part of our Health and Social Care family.
“This year we have seen the remarkable dedication and resilience of community pharmacy teams across Northern Ireland who have stepped up as leaders within health and social care.
“From the very beginning of the pandemic, our network came up with innovative ways to remain open and carry on with the high standard of care and support they offer in their local areas.
“A visit to a community pharmacy gives patients the opportunity to have a face-to-face consultation with a health professional at a time and location close to home, without the need for an appointment. This has proved to be vital in the midst of this pandemic.
“With many patients at home self-isolating or shielding, they can still have a face-to-face discussion with their pharmacist via a video call. We ask the public to speak to your local pharmacy for more details.
“As we approach the winter months, we expect to see another surge in patient numbers due to flu season and COVID, but community pharmacy remains open and ready to support our patients throughout this period and we are putting plans in place to deal with increased demand. Community Pharmacy will be here for everyone this winter.”
Brain Austin, a Community Pharmacist from Belfast also commented:
“From the earliest stages of the pandemic, community pharmacists were all too aware that we were the frontline of the health service and we did everything we could to keep our doors open for patients at that time. The crisis has highlighted the agility of our network and how much trust people place in their local community pharmacist.
“Our pharmacies changed overnight in many cases. New layouts were designed, Perspex screens erected, social distancing measures were implemented, and PPE became normal attire to ensure both public and staff safety so we could continue to do our job. We are now working through another wave of Covid.
“There is no doubt, this second wave of the pandemic, coupled with the expected winter pressures adds multiple layers of pressure to our pharmacy teams. However, with new service provisions we are ready for it and we are taking on even more responsibility to provide accessible and available healthcare within our communities.”