What can a pharmacist do for your parent?
Pharmacists can do more for our parents now than ever. Whilst they don’t offer the same expertise as a doctor they can certainly ensure that our parents are living well and managing their medication successfully.
We explore the ways in which pharmacists can help our parents with their pills and prescriptions.
Different types of pharmacist
A “Chemist” by any other name is simply a “Pharmacist” – both fulfil exactly the same role in your parent’s healthcare. Generally there are two types of pharmacists – community and hospital.
Community pharmacists are responsible for dispensing both prescription and non-prescription medicines as well as providing over-the-counter advice on medicines and possible side effects.
Hospital pharmacists are responsible for patients’ prescriptions, dispensing medicines as part of treatment plans prescribed by the attending medical staff.
Since 2002 pharmacists have had the power to prescribe medicine to patients helping them to avoid revisiting their doctors to renew prescriptions. There are 2 types of prescribers – independent and supplementary – who’re able to continue your parent’s clinical care after diagnosis.
Pharmacists can prescribe any medicine within their competence as well as some controlled medicines for which your parent is likely to be asked for proof of identity before they can collect them. Parents aged 60 and over should receive their prescriptions free of charge on the NHS.
You parent should be able to collect their prescription from their local pharmacy or doctor’s surgery. Some pharmacies will collect prescriptions from your parent’s local GP surgery on their behalf in order to quickly fulfil the prescription. Your parent’s prescription is valid for six months from the date it was signed allowing them to collect their medicine when it’s most convenient.
If you’re collecting your parent’s prescription on their behalf you’ll usually be asked to confirm their name and address as well as prove that you have your parent’s permission to do so. Some surgeries may also ask to see some ID.
Repeat prescriptions for long-term conditions
If your parent is taking medication for a long-term condition they’ll be given a repeat prescription by their GP which can last up to a year. If your parent gives their GP permission to share information with their local pharmacy, their pharmacist will be able to regularly dispense the prescription without your parent visiting their GP beforehand.
The Electronic Prescription Service (EPS) is due to replace our current paper-based system and allow your parent’s prescription to be sent directly from their GP to the pharmacy of their choice. Not only will this mean your parent won’t have to visit their surgery just to collect their prescription but it also ensures that their prescription information is accurately entered into the system by the GP.
If your parent is unable to pick up their prescription from the local pharmacy or GP surgery it may be that they can arrange for them to be delivered. Pharmacy2u currently provide the NHS EPS and offer free delivery of repeat prescriptions to any address your parent chooses. Pharmacies such as Boots, The Co-operative and Lloyds also offer this service although additional delivery charges may be applicable.
New medicine service (NMS)
The New Medicine Service is available if your parent has been prescribed new medication for conditions such as high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes. It’s completely free and is conducted over 3 appointments with your parent’s pharmacist in a private consultation room. This ensures that the pharmacist can keep track of how your parent’s getting on with their prescription.
Minor ailments service
Your parent’s pharmacy may run a Minor Ailments Service which provides assessment of and treatment for various conditions such as skin conditions and joint pains without having to see a GP.
Medicines Use Review (MUR)
Whether your parent has just started taking medicine or has a long prescription list it’s important to review the medicine they’re taking as not all are meant to be taken long term. If your parent’s pharmacy offers this service they can request a consultation to answer any questions or concerns they have about their medicine.
A MUR allows the pharmacist to adjust your parent’s dosage or do away with prescriptions that are no longer necessary. A Medical Review Action Plan will be filled out by the pharmacist which your parent’s GP, carer or district nurse can also be privy to. To find out if your parent is eligible for a MUR or for more information click here.
Disposing of old medicines
If your parent has unwanted, left over or out-of-date medication they should take it to their local pharmacy to be disposed of safely. Unused prescriptions should never be thrown away with household waste.
Easy to access containers
If your parent has trouble opening their medicine containers their pharmacist may be able to dispense their prescription into a pill box or another easy to use container. It may be worth asking your parent’s pharmacist to provide you with large-print labels to stick on their pill box so your parent can clearly see their pill regiment as well as the dosage instructions.
Problems with swallowing – swap to liquid
Problems swallowing medication can mean that your parent stops taking their prescription altogether. To avoid this make sure they talk to their pharmacist about the possibility of swapping their pills for something pourable. Whilst not all medicines will be available in a liquid form some may at least be soluble.
If your parent has been falling more frequently it could be a result of their medication and not a symptom of getting older. They can ask their pharmacist for a MUR if they’re concerned their prescription is causing them to fall.
Your parent’s pharmacist may also offer a drop-in falls service which could include anything from MURs and walking stick MOTs to blood pressure checks and footwear assessments.
How to complain about a pharmacist
A pharmacist should be registered with the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) before they can work independently. If you, or your parent, are concerned about the behaviour or qualifications of their pharmacist you can search to see if they’re GPhC registered to ensure peace of mind and professionalism.
Discussions with carers
Emily Holzhausen, Policy Director at Carers UK explains how pharmacies are a great resource when it comes to managing and maintaining eldercare in the community.
Another group of people that we haven't really talked about who could have a key role are pharmacists. A lot of their customers are caring for someone with a disability or someone who is frail and they are ideally placed to help spot and issue and signpost e.g. if they ask after Mum - and the carer says that they're not eating well. They should then get signposted to support/advice. That could make a real difference.
If you'd like to know more about what a pharmacist can do for your parent The Guardian has an interesting read "A day in the life of a community pharmacist".
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