by Georgina Gillard, pre-registration pharmacist trainee, Paydens Ltd, Larkfield
My year as a pre-registration trainee has been a somewhat challenging experience; balancing full-time work, studying to prepare for the GPhC assessment and socialising within my support bubble, all during a global pandemic. For so many, COVID-19 has been a real challenge and has had a significant impact on mental health and wellbeing. But as many primary care providers closed their doors, community pharmacy continues to play a crucial role in supporting patient wellbeing during COVID-19.
Many patients I’ve been working with during this period have mentioned how they’ve been feeling “down” and are “fed up” with the pandemic and I’ve noticed signs of loneliness amongst elderly patients, whilst monitoring their INR at the Warfarin clinic. Additionally, anxiety amongst the pharmacy team has significantly increased, particularly when members of the team have had to isolate due to relatives testing positive for COVID-19.
Working at Paydens Ltd in Larkfield, we’ve been working hard to support our patients during this challenging period. We set up the COVID-19 Mental Health Awareness, Support and Referral Service to provide free, confidential support for our patients. We want to increase patient awareness of mental health support to help them feel empowered to take actions which will improve their wellbeing. The support is a “listening” service, where patients can “offload” in which they can confidentially talk to a member of the pharmacy team, and are signposted effectively to the other support services such as The Samaritans, Mind, Depression-UK, One You, or to their GP.
The biggest target and challenge to overcome is to change perceptions and to break the silence and stigma surrounding mental health. The World Health Organisation discovered that almost two thirds of people with issues with their mental health do not seek help from a healthcare professional. As a result, leaflets are available in prominent areas of the pharmacy such as over the counter and on our tills, giving patients time to take the information quietly without needing to talk to a member of the pharmacy team. These leaflets contain information of our service and other charities, so patients can seek out of hours mental health support.
I am proud to be a part of a beginning of hopefully a successful service. During our pilot three weeks, over 30 patients have accessed the service and we’ve been able to signpost or refer them to other support services. They are no barriers what people can come and talk to us about. People are incredibly grateful to have a service like this where they are able to talk to someone face to face rather than over the telephone; I remember one patient saying that they would have stayed at home alone if they did not use the service, as they had no one to talk to.
There are posters in the pharmacy to advertise the service we aim for as many people as possible to be aware of the service. It is important for patients in all areas to know that they are not alone, and community pharmacies, like Paydens, are here to support you during these challenging times.