World Pharmacist Day 2022- Pharmacy United in Action for a Healthier World
This year for World Pharmacist Day, the theme is "Pharmacy united in action for a healthier world" and that message has never been more true here in the UK, as pharmacists are being asked by the government to step up and take on more to support primary care.
At Pancreatic Cancer Action, we have been championing pharmacists and their vital role in creating a healthier community, nation and world for over a decade now.
The symptoms of pancreatic cancer can be vague and non-descript, leading many to visit their local pharmacy to self-medicate or get advice. This means pharmacists and pharmacy teams are well-placed to identify the signs of pancreatic cancer and support early diagnosis.
To support pharmacists and give them the resources and confidence they need to recognise potential pancreatic cancer signs and refer them to a GP or specialist, we created several pioneering resources to educate and inform pharmacists on the signs and symptoms of pancreatic cancer. Our e-learning module for pharmacists uses case studies and real-world scenarios to help recognise pharmacy customers at risk of pancreatic cancer.
We have also developed a pharmacy pack containing awareness information for pharmacy teams and their customer base. Items in the pack include symptoms posters for display, awareness materials, diagnostic guidance and access to our free e-learning module for pharmacists and their support staff.
Earlier this year, working in partnership with community pharmacists across the UK, we were able to influence a significant change within NHS England. Working together, we developed proposals of what a system of cancer referrals would look like for pharmacists. This included developing a “decision tree” that would be adapted into clinical guidance to support pharmacists in detecting pancreatic cancer. Our proposals were adopted, and now at the time of writing, community pharmacists having the ability to make direct referrals to secondary care for suspected cancer cases is being piloted. We are continuing to work with NHS England to review what education and support pharmacists will need to carry out this new role.
On this, Ade Williams, MBE, Lead Pharmacist at Bedminster Pharmacy and our Pharmacy Ambassador said:
"This development is very positive and welcome. As someone who has campaigned for this, I am indebted to Ali Stunt and the Pancreatic Cancer Action team who have invested a lot of resources and time, encouraging and equipping community pharmacy teams for their role before many of us even thought it was necessary or possible. It is now more important than ever that any delivery design delivers the vision, scalability and sustainable model required. With pancreatic cancer, this will be especially important for early diagnosis."
To improve the early diagnosis of pancreatic cancer and save lives, pharmacies need the power to assess patients and refer those with red flag symptoms directly to the hospital without the need to see their GP. Visiting a highly qualified pharmacist for minor illness, assessment or cancer screening could result in faster referral and diagnosis of cancer and free up GP time.
The role of the pharmacist in creating a healthier world has never been more important, which is why we are now calling on governments to provide additional funding to community pharmacies to hire Accuracy Checking Pharmacy Technicians, freeing up the pharmacist’s time for more face-to-face clinical work with patients.
Most of the country lives within a 20-minute walk of their nearest pharmacy, and 95% of the population uses their pharmacy at least once a year. Local pharmacies are well-placed within communities. Patients visiting their pharmacy frequently or with red flag symptoms, who may not otherwise go to their GP, may benefit from the plan.
Pharmacists having the ability to make direct referrals has the potential to save thousands of lives each year by supporting patients to get that diagnosis of cancer earlier and in time with full life-saving treatments. Despite this real and positive progress, there is still some concern that they will not have the diagnostic capacity to deal with the number of referrals made by our highly qualified pharmacist community.