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Train pharmacy staff to give vitamin D advice, says nutrition expert

Pharmacists could approach groups at risk of vitamin D deficiency, says Mr Wakeman

There is “not a great degree of awareness” about vitamin D among pharmacy staff, says Michael Wakeman, a pharmacist and brand consultant for supplements manufacturer Biocare

Staff should receive training on vitamin D to boost the number of people accessing pharmacies for advice on supplements, according to a nutrition expert.


There was "not a great degree of awareness" about vitamin D among pharmacy staff, said Michael Wakeman, a pharmacist and brand consultant for supplements manufacturer Biocare.


But deficiency was a common problem and there was a good case for pharmacists providing advice in this area, said Mr Wakeman, who conducted a study on the subject across four pharmacies in March.


More than 90 per cent of the 50 pharmacy customers he interviewed for the study had never measured their vitamin D levels. Eighty-five per cent of participants, who attended one of the four pharmacies in south England, had not considered visiting a pharmacy for information on the subject, he said in the study published by Biocare last week (October 27).


Sixty-two per cent of the study's participants – who all underwent a vitamin D test in a pharmacy – were found to have insufficient or deficient levels of the vitamin and just 38 per cent had levels that were "satisfactory", he said. Patients whose vitamin D levels were deficient or insufficient were provided with advice from pharmacy staff about supplements and how to change their lifestyle.



Following the exercise, three quarters of customers said they would consider consulting their pharmacist about "vitamin-related issues" in future, said Mr Wakeman, who has an MA in nutritional medicine.


This study made a "really good case" for pharmacists to take on a greater role providing "meaningful advice" about the supplements available, Mr Wakeman told C+D on Friday (October 31). This would encourage people to consider buying their supplements from a pharmacy rather than a health food shop, he said.


Pharmacists could proactively approach people in at-risk groups – which included over 65s, pregnant women and those with darker skin tone – to provide them with advice about vitamin deficiency and which medicines could affect their vitamin D levels, he said. This was especially true of elderly patients, who may not receive much vitamin D from sunlight, he added.


"A lot of medications do impact upon vitamin D levels, so I think pharmacy has got a tremendously important role to play because they get the prescriptions. It's the perfect opportunity to engage with patients if they're over 65," he added.


In May, Nice suggested that the government should sell its supplements directly to pharmacies, in draft guidance on vitamin D.


How do you talk to patients about their vitamin D levels?

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8 Comments

Shabs A, Community pharmacist

Shouldn't pharmacists know about vitamin D already?

[email protected], Pre-reg graduate

Its not about the knowledge we have, but giving it free to visitors to your Pharmacy !!!

Shabs A, Community pharmacist

We do a lot of things for free and it's nothing new.

N O, Pharmaceutical Adviser

Of-course it is not new for the Pharmacies to provide FREE services, but this is indeed a NEW addition to the list of FREE services !!!!

Michael Stewart, Community pharmacist

"Sixty-two per cent of the study's participants – who all underwent a vitamin D test in a pharmacy – were found to have insufficient or deficient levels of the vitamin"

It isn't clear how patients were tested - I'm assuming not an actual blood test?

For anyone interested see the Vitamin D mission website - they have an 'online test' where you input dietary information and it gives an assessment as to likely vitamin D levels

http://www.vitamindmission.co.uk/take-the-test

AMANDA WHITEHEAD, Pharmacy technician

Is it not just the fact we do not get any outdoor time? We go to work and spend nine hours a day indoors. As do our kids in tablets ipads and cant let them out of our sights because of a huge amount of paedophiles. When we do get time we spend it on cpd. What do the inexperienced people who order us to do all of these extra jobs want. Blood maybe. Get the people demanding these pprotocols in a working pharmacy then maybe they will understand you can no concentrate on dispensing a sript when the f**k wit in the shop is shouting down his or her phone. When I went to a library when I was a kid and we knew to be quiet because people were reading and wanted to concentrate. As do we. No phones less noise and we can do our jobs efficiently

Michael Wakeman, Locum pharmacist

Hi MIchael,

yes this was a blood test and the actual data will be published in a peer review journal shortly.

mike wakeman

N O, Pharmaceutical Adviser

So you are suggesting we do Blood Test as well and then give advice on Vitamin-D ?? All for free ?? Or you just want us (staff) to give FREE advice to anyone and everyone, without performing the test, irrespective of whether they have a deficiency or not ?? Please clarify

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