Relationships built through the Building Community Pharmacy Partnership (BCPP) provide valuable support and often lifelines to people living across Northern Ireland. One example of such a project is Living Life Well run by Lilac, cancer support group and O’Neill’s Pharmacy in Coalisland.Having successfully completed an initial project, the group were spurned on to embark on a level two project. This next phase saw them building on the work of the previous partnership with O’Neill’s Pharmacy in the Coalisland area; with the aim of targeting a core group of between 12-15 people who were affected by cancer and/or other chronic conditions.
Over a twelve month period led by community pharmacist, Adele Graham, the group members covered a number of topics including pharmacy services, emotional well-being, healthy eating and the benefits of physical activity. The sessions, held on the first Wednesday of every month were tailored to meet the needs of this local group. Activities consisted of a mixture of topics, some of which addressed therapeutic needs whilst others looked at cancer awareness and mental health issues.
As Celia from the Lilac Centre explained, “We wanted to organise a programme that kept people interested so that they would want to come back. If all of the topics addressed weighty issues it may have been too overwhelming for some of the participants. By combining activities which provided a social aspect, such as yoga and “Grow your own veg” sessions, we were able to lighten the atmosphere and people enjoyed past-times such as gardening which they hadn’t done in years.
Topics such as healthy eating had an interactive slant and with the support of the Health Support Officer from the local council, we used board games and cards to promote the messages about the importance of nutrition. Just simple things really, but they stuck in people’s minds so the next time they went shopping they were more inclined to look at the labels and take into consideration the salt or sugar content of the food they were thinking of buying. They were also more likely to try new foods, such as swapping white pasta for brown. It empowered them to make informed choices”.
Often the group ran over time, this was seen as a good sign as the members started to bond with each other. This social element and connection was fundamental to the success of programme, some of the group admitted that they weren’t ‘… ones for mixing’. However, this has since changed and they are going to other classes which they mightn’t have considered before.
As the partnership was with a community pharmacy, it was an opportunity to raise awareness of the services available. For many, their local chemist was somewhere they got their medicines and they weren’t aware of the other services.“Some of the participants knew of a few of the services but didn’t feel confident to ask” Adele explained, “They would have called in to get their prescription and have seen a pharmacist explaining a service but didn’t like to ask for themselves. This is something that has changed from their participation in the programme. Group members are more aware of what is available and will come in and ask questions and tell their family members to go to a community pharmacist for advice. Maybe ask a question about their medication thus saving the need for a trip to the GP. Being in a rural area this level of trust and accessibility is invaluable. If we can’t address their health need in the pharmacy, we signpost them onto the relevant health professional”.
As part of her sessions, Adele give advice on the management of long-term conditions and explained some of the alternative over-the-counter treatments, she also provided a number of health check including blood pressure and blood sugars.
Speaking about the programme, Adele concluded, “As a community pharmacist it is a great opportunity to meet local patients, understand their healthcare needs and help address them. Advising people about their choices, connecting them to further support and letting them make informed decisions be that about their diet, lifestyle or general health is what the partnership is all about. By learning to self-care, and make the appropriate health choices themselves, members of the group are more empowered and much more likely to improve their own health and well-being now and in the future”.
Building the Community-Pharmacy Partnership – The Building the Community-Pharmacy Partnership (BCPP) is a partnership between the Community Development and Health Network (CDHN) and Integrated Care, Health and Social Care Board with strategic direction offered by a multi-agency Steering Group. The programme aims to: Promote and support local communities to work in partnership with community pharmacists to address local health and social wellbeing needs using a community development approach.
The programme works towards:
- Increasing local people’s skills, encouraging community activity and self help
- Increasing local people’s understanding of health issues
- Encouraging local people to play a role in promoting health