Lloydspharmacy is in the midst of a huge change. In September, the multiple’s parent company, Celesio UK, completed the takeover of 281 former Sainsbury’s pharmacies. Earlier this month, it held an away-day event – complete with welcoming speeches and ‘speed dating’ icebreaker sessions – to help its new community pharmacy colleagues get to know each other.
The company also welcomed another addition last month in the form of Kim Davies. Ms Davies was hired as the multiple’s first health and wellbeing pharmacist, working with elderly patients in 31 assisted living locations in the West Midlands to support them to manage their own health by optimising their medicines usage.
Ms Davies, whose career spans medicines management roles at UnitedHealth Group’s health service platform Optum and Nottingham’s primary care trust, tells C+D she believes pharmacists are perfectly suited to this type of role. The profession’s skills lend themselves to offering medicines advice and support, and conducting bespoke medicine use reviews for those who are unwilling or unable to speak to their GP, she says.
“When patients reach a certain age, GPs may follow national guidelines for prescribing ‘A’, ‘B’ and ‘C’ [drugs] for certain conditions. But when patients get a little bit older and move into a residential setting, care home, or even independent living, GPs may assume they’re being looked after and monitored by somebody else,” Ms Davies explains.
“A lot of these people feel they might not have somebody to talk to about what [medicines] they are taking, but pharmacists are in the perfect position to do that,” she says. “We’re a huge, capable, untapped resource.”
Providing extra care
Ms Davies will oversee a programme run with ExtraCare, a charity for older people that operates in the Coventry area – where Celesio UK is based. The charity enables the elderly to live more independently by integrating their homes, care and lifestyle.
Ms Davies will spend her time travelling to ExtraCare’s 14 retirement villages and 17 housing schemes, getting to know the elderly patients “as best she can” and passing the information back to Lloydspharmacy’s head office.
Her “brown bag sessions” – where patients are invited to bring in all of their medications and discuss their concerns with her – are proving popular with residents, she says. “It helps to get them involved in what they are taking, rather than being scared about asking something, or perhaps not taking something because they don’t want to upset the GP,” she explains.
“When people get older, their priorities change and quality of life may become more important to them than the management of a specific condition. A GP will be looking at a patient and prescribing medicines for all their complex needs, which may involve statins, aspirin, and additional medicines to counteract side effects of other medications.”
However, “if someone is in their 90s and they are on a statin to reduce their stroke risk, but they say ‘It’s making my joints hurt’, ‘I’m not sleeping well’ or ‘I’m actually not that keen on it’, then that’s something [pharmacists] can consider with the GP”, Ms Davies says.
Tackling the “pill burden”
Ms Davies believes that the fact many people living in care homes and other residential facilities require multiple medicines is a huge issue.
She is a “big advocate of ‘de-prescribing’” – evaluating how a medicine is impacting a patient’s quality of life and stopping any drugs that are clinically inappropriate or that outweigh their benefits. The idea is to “limit interactions, side effects and wastage”, she says.
Community pharmacists are also well-placed to tackle this “pill burden”, she says, adding: “It’s about having the opportunity to sit down with [patients] and actually realise what could be stepped down or stopped completely.”
Looking to the future
In the longer-term, Ms Davies says she hopes she will be joined by other health and wellbeing pharmacists – both from Lloydspharmacy and across the sector.
“I would love another pharmacist working with me because there are plenty of patients to speak to,” she says.
“Years working as a pharmacist in various settings just prepare you perfectly for this role. So if a pharmacist takes a genuine interest [in it], we can only make [the sector] look bigger and better to the public.”