Prior to the onset of the pandemic in March 2020, the “Living Well Service” was well established in community pharmacies in Northern Ireland. The focus of “Living Well” is to provide key public health messages and advice through community pharmacies, thereby addressing risk factors which contribute significantly to the overall prevalence of disease in Northern Ireland.
In response to Covid-19, CPNI worked with HSCB and Public Health Agency colleagues to adapt the focus of the planned campaigns for 2020/21 to more urgent COVID-19 health matters. Community pharmacists adapted quickly and used their position as one of the few essential services still open to the public, to deliver this vital, trusted information and support to patients, including those who are isolated, vulnerable and otherwise hard to reach.
Pharmacists are consistently voted as the most trusted healthcare professionals by the public and consequently, their role in dispelling health myths and misinformation around the pandemic has been critical. Pharmacy campaigns in 2020/21 included Looking after your health and wellbeing during COVID-19, Vaccination, Alcohol Awareness, Mental Health and Cancer. Evaluations of the campaigns can be found on the HSCB website and those completed so far have highlighted the unique value of community pharmacy. For example, during the vaccination campaign:
- Community pharmacy provided 31,480 patients with advice on the importance of vaccination
- Over 400 pharmacies provided vaccination information to the elderly and those with long term conditions
- 200 pharmacies engaged with patients who were socially isolated, had young families, were housebound or had addiction issues
CPNI continues to engage with pharmacy contractors and colleagues in the HSCB to develop this service and support future commissioning.