For the latest edition of our Action Magazine, I interviewed Ade Williams, our Pharmacy Ambassador who helps us raise awareness of pancreatic cancer in pharmacies throughout the year.
We got the chance to ask Ade about his day to day life in his pharmacy, why he chose a pharmacy career and any advice he might have for people who might be apprehensive about talking to a pharmacist about symptoms they are having.
What is the role of the pharmacist and what do you do on a day to day basis?
The initial five-year pharmacy training produces versatile clinicians with expert knowledge on safe medicine use, disease diagnosis, prevention and treatment. We are trained to be effective communicators, and lifestyle coaches by learning how to work with people to improve their health and well-being. Pharmacists are found in every part of the NHS; hospitals, GP Surgeries, A&E as well as specialist treatment services. The majority of us work in a community pharmacy.
Community pharmacists and their teams are part of the NHS front-line team being the most accessible outpost for care, support and advice. 89% of the population is within a 20-minute walk of a community pharmacy and opening hours are generally longer than many other settings. I provide advice on the appropriate use of medicines. We offer this expertise for prescribed medicines, alongside medicines that can only be sold over the counter, in regulated pharmacy premises. Alongside dispensing medicines, we provide NHS services such as flu vaccinations, travel vaccinations, medicine reviews, and support with new medicines. NHS Health Checks alongside other diagnostic checks such as blood pressure and cholesterol tests in some instances.
I support and educate to empower people to make the right lifestyle choices alongside helping to treat common ailments, also identifying symptoms suggestive of more serious illnesses. This health promotion and disease awareness role is a crucial part of the National Healthy Living Pharmacies programme.
What led you to a career in pharmacy?
I had been persuaded a few years earlier by my art teacher to review my motives for wanting to become a watercolour artist and instead seek better use of my empathetic nature and good science grades.
I was born and lived in Nigeria, but I moved to the UK to progress my studies. My year of study in Hove, a quintessential English seaside town, was punctuated by a twice-daily walk past Traherne Pharmacy behind the train station. My curious visits to observe the pharmacist and chat to him about his work, seeing how he cared for his community made my mind up to follow that career path. I do, however, retain my love for the palette, producing commissioned pieces.
How did you find out about Pancreatic Cancer Action (PCA)?
I found out about PCA from their visit to The Pharmacy Show. I was impressed to learn about the work being done, their passion and their drive. More so, the fact that they had identified that pharmacy professionals and teams were key to improving early cancer diagnosis and disease awareness which is now becoming commonly embraced across the NHS. PCA lead the way in proactively championing this. Ali’s remarkable personal story also motivated me. She used her own experiences to start a cause to make things better for everyone. Remarkable. Lu Constable (my first contact in PCA) was so supportive and encouraging about ideas to support pharmacy. The whole ethos of the organisation is caring, personable and very people-centred.
What do you do for PCA and why is it important?
I am a Pharmacy Ambassador for PCA. This role provides me with the opportunities to encourage pharmacy colleagues to champion the work of PCA in different communities, especially supporting the PCA Turn it Purple campaign. I am so pleased to see the significant increases in the uptake of the pharmacy e-learning module across the UK. Now with more community pharmacy teams engaging, we are set to play a vital role in the fight against pancreatic cancer. I am presently the Pharmacist of the Year, 2018, and the Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s Patient Advocate. Being able to utilise these positions alongside being part of the BBC Radio morning show team to provide visibility, and a narrative of the excellent work PCA do for health professionals, patients, and their families, is such a rewarding and effective way to raise the profile of pancreatic cancer.
What would you say to someone who is apprehensive about visiting/ talking to their pharmacist about a concern they are having?
There are still some common misconceptions about the role of the community pharmacist, and the level of training we receive. Pharmacists make up the third largest healthcare professionals in the NHS after nurses and doctors. We are also highly trusted and well trained. Don’t also be confused about the retail shell we work in. A Community Pharmacist always has a holistic approach, looking at causative factors and what lifestyle changes can help enhance any medicines that may be needed for treatment. All our conversations are confidential, and most people never realise we can offer private consultation rooms for discreet and dignified chats. Please ask to use it if you prefer.
We always welcome all types of health, medicine, or well-being related queries. At a time when face-to-face access to see a health care professional can sadly seem a premium, community pharmacies are always available. Our opening hours are generally longer than many other health settings. There are 1.6 million visits to a community pharmacy every day. That adds up to 14 visits per person per year. We like to view that as 14 opportunities to make a contact that counts in improving your health and well-being, alleviating concerns or referring you on for more urgent treatment. Community pharmacists offer this free NHS walk-in service, and patients can generally have access to the pharmacist within minutes of entering the pharmacy.
We’d like to say a huge thank you to Ade and his pharmacy team for their dedication to raising vital funds and awareness of pancreatic cancer. We’re so proud to have all of you on Team PCA!