In a financial climate where local authorities are cutting back on smoking cessation funding, it is reassuring to see pharmacy staff are still willing to go out of their way to keep the service on track, even in challenging staffing situations.
Well Pharmacy’s Bollin House branch in Macclesfield managed to continue to offer a smoking cessation service, even during a six-month period when the branch was operating without a full-time pharmacist.
It was left to dispenser Dawn Fairweather, who qualified as a stop smoking practitioner in 2016, to become the pharmacy’s smoking cessation lead.
Offering “mini-therapy sessions”
Ms Fairweather stepped up to run the smoking cessation service when local commissioners “changed the way it was going to be funded” – meaning a local GP surgery, which was due to offer the service, could no longer afford to provide it.
“The branch didn’t offer the service initially, so I put myself forward,” she explains. After winning a bid, the Well branch implemented the scheme, which offers patients a twelve-week course. Ms Fairweather says the in-depth nature of the course – which includes her technique of giving patients “mini-therapy sessions” – is her secret to success.
“We delve into their history and look at exactly why they smoke. [Smoking] is not so much a nicotine addiction…as it is [an addiction of] behaviour,” she tells C+D.
After achieving a “fantastic success rate” and earning several referrals from neighbouring GP surgeries, Ms Fairweather became a trainer for the specialist service provider Kickstart, based in Macclesfield Hospital. Since then she has trained another staff member, her colleague Darren – using a unique sporting analogy.
“I used to smoke myself many years ago, whereas Darren has never smoked, so [I needed] to get him to understand what it’s like to quit. Darren is a die-hard Manchester City fan, so we started talking about the psychology of that. He just couldn’t imagine putting another [team’s] shirt on, and couldn’t imagine going to their game.
“So I said: ‘Right, from tomorrow you support Liverpool’. [Stopping smoking] is that sort of change in somebody’s lifestyle; it’s a huge change to somebody to no longer smoke, especially if they’ve been doing it for many years.”
“I helped [him] do his online National Centre for Smoking Cessation and Training (NCSCT) qualification, and then supported him through on-the-job training,” she recalls.
Taking pressure off GPs
In addition to the smoking cessation scheme, the branch also provides a weight management service, flu vaccinations, blood pressure testing, and advice on alcohol abuse.
“We have six surgeries across the road in a medical centre [with] 56 doctors,” Ms Fairweather explains. Offering patients these services in the pharmacy helps to take the workload off the GPs, she says. “There is so much [pharmacy] can deal with that people aren’t necessarily aware of.”
For example, during last year’s flu vaccination season, “we did hundreds [of flu jabs] on behalf of GPs”. The blood pressure testing also means the pharmacy is sent patients from the GP, as “they’re stretched and don’t have the facilities to offer it there”.
Minor ailments service “back on track”
In April this year, the pharmacy was finally able to reduce its reliance on locums, after branch pharmacist Chelsea Taylor, who joined in October 2017, became accredited to offer a minor ailments service commissioned by Eastern Cheshire clinical commissioning group (CCG).
Ms Fairweather says it was “quite frustrating” not to be able to offer a minor ailments service, but Well tells C+D it is now “picking up pace”, with the branch receiving an average of two inquiries a day since Ms Taylor received her accreditation.
Ms Fairweather says she is pleased to see the pharmacy “back on track” with this offering, as it is “really beneficial” for patients.
Looking to the future
While her name badge says 'dispenser', Ms Fairweather says she has “been working as a pharmacy technician for at least 10 years” – but has not yet been able to complete her technician qualification after taking career breaks to have two children.
But working in community pharmacy has inspired her, and she also says her six-year-old daughter wants to become a community pharmacist. “It’s certainly a nice sector to be in,” Ms Fairweather says.
“I think there’s a lot more future prospects for me to work towards in my pharmacy career, so I’m happy.”