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How Pharmacy First allowed me to save a patient from waiting at A&E

Pharmacies are “clinical hubs in primary care” says Joshua Olaifa, after an otoscope examination revealed a child’s earache was caused by a bead…

On February 6 this year (2024), we received a referral at my pharmacy from the local GP practice regarding a non-verbal autistic 10-year-old boy with an earache. The patient was brought in by his mother, who was sceptical about being referred to a pharmacy. I reassured her that community pharmacists are clinicians who are trained in dealing with presenting complaints, like that of her son’s.

After examining the patient’s ears with my otoscope, it became apparent that the patient had a bead stuck in his auditory canal. I proceeded to show his mother what the ear examination revealed using my digital otoscope - she was amazed and surprised. As she prepared herself for a five to six hour wait at the accidents and emergencies (A&E) hospital department, I reassured her that the matter could be resolved onsite and she would not have to be referred to the hospital.

Read more: Xrayser: Ready, set, go! Will Pharmacy First win the race?

I would like to share my experience with the Pharmacy First service as I believe it is a great service and it is an exciting insight into what the future of pharmacy could be. My experience also highlights the pivotal role pharmacy clinicians have in alleviating pressures in the NHS. At Eltham Pharmacy in Southeast London, we run with two onsite pharmacists and offer independent prescribing (IP) services.

I attached a silicone ear spoon extension to the digital otoscope and proceeded to gently pull the bead out of the patient’s auditory canal. His mother was amazed. She expressed her sincere gratitude and excitement for being saved hours waiting at the A&E for a matter which was resolved in a few minutes by a qualified healthcare professional. She explained to me that this had changed her outlook on pharmacists and what we are able to do in our increasingly patient facing role.

Read more: Can contractors force locums into Pharmacy First? – A legal perspective

I would like to emphasise that this interaction would not have been possible if it weren’t for the initiative of GP surgeries in referring patients to community pharmacies for illnesses as a first port of call. Pharmacies are no longer just sites where patients come to collect their medication. Pharmacies have become clinical hubs in primary care in the same way GP surgeries and dental practices are.

Joshua Olaifa is a pharmacist and owner of Eltham Pharmacy

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