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Reaching the public through community pharmacies

This brief article aims to share clinical practice and show how working with community pharmacies can enable services to inform and engage the public in the wider community.

This brief article aims to share clinical practice and show how working with community pharmacies can enable services to inform and engage the public in the wider community.

In common with other continence services across the country, we benchmark our service using the Essence of Care Continence Tool (Department of Health, 2003).

The benchmarking process identified specific areas we needed to address, namely difficulties in engaging the public and promoting continence to the wider community.

In 2005 the DH produced the document Choosing health through pharmacy. A programme for pharmaceutical public health 2005-1015. This sets out the key roles for pharmacies in improving public health, including the holding of contemporary health information and the ability of staff to 'signpost? the public towards appropriate health services.

We therefore needed to ascertain what our local community pharmacies were offering with regard to continence. A questionnaire was sent to all the pharmacies in the area; including the well-known larger pharmacy chains.

The results showed that 75% of the pharmacies did not stock any continence-related literature but all stocked and offered mail order for disposable products. This was a cause for concern, as it showed that people were accessing pharmacies for continence products but literature on help for their continence problem or contact details for them to seek professional advice was not readily available

In response all pharmacies were provided with literature and a continence service leaflet. After six months the questionnaire was re-sent and the results were encouraging, with 80% of pharmacies saying they displayed our continence service leaflet.

We had therefore made progress in meeting the DH?s aim of providing contemporary literature but we unsure about pharmacy staff ability to assist the public with continence issues and direct them to the continence service for professional help.

To address this, the continence service offers pharmacy staff short training sessions on what we can offer and how to direct the public to seek professional help. The training has received a very positive response from pharmacies and some now display our continence service leaflet on the shelf alongside their continence products.

In summary, there are 1.8 million visits to pharmacies each day and 260,000 will be for health advice alone (DH, 2005). A percentage of these pharmacy visits will be for continence-related issues, so it is vital that pharmacies display appropriate literature and that staff are able to direct the public to local continence services.

To achieve this, continence services need to communicate with and support pharmacy staff. Our work has shown that pharmacies are ideally placed to engage the public and promote continence to the wider community.

References
Department of Health (2003) Essence of Care. The Stationery Office: London.
Department of Health (2005) Dawn of a new era for pharmacy. The Stationery Office: London.

catherine.weller@somerset.nhs.uk

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