Improving pharmacy services for disabled people, their families and carers

31 October 2016

The learning disability charity Mencap, in partnership with National Autistic Society, Scope and Sense, has produced a range of resources for pharmacies and others to help improve disabled people’s experiences of accessing and using pharmacy services.

Our standards for registered pharmacies explain that pharmacy services must be accessible to patients and the public, and that pharmacy owners and superintendent pharmacists should make sure the pharmacy has appropriate arrangements in place to help all people access the pharmacy services they need.

The resources produced and collated by a project led by the charities include:

  • A list of reasonable adjustments that owners can put in place to make their pharmacy accessible.
  • A checklist for pharmacies to make sure that they are following the Accessible Information Standard, with a list of suggestions they can use to improve their customers’ experiences of using their local pharmacy.
  • My Communication Rights at the Pharmacy: an easy read document for patients and the public, which explains the NHS Accessible Information Standard and the key information disabled people should know.
  • Communications Rights at the Pharmacy: a document for parents and carers to summarise the key points from the Accessible Information Standard, and some hints and tips when supporting someone to access pharmacy services.
  • Easy read guides endorsed by the RPS to explain the New Medicine Service and the Medicine Use Review
  • An easy read document explaining what pharmacies are, that can be used to give disabled people a clearer understanding of what these facilities are, why you would use one and how they work.

The resources are based on the results of a project to identify and address issues affecting disabled people and their families in accessing and using pharmacy services, part of a programme of work funded by the voluntary sector Strategic Partners programme, which is led by Department of Health, NHS England and Public Health England.

Working with local disability groups, local pharmacy associations and self-advocacy groups in Greenwich and Sheffield, the project interviewed, surveyed, and held focus groups with over 500 people (including disabled people, professional support staff, 56 pharmacists, and 35 family carers), about what barriers, issues and concerns exist in relation to the accessibility of pharmacy services.

Project workers then ran a focus group with local pharmacists to gather their opinions on barriers and possible solutions.

The project team also worked with pharmacy bodies such as the National Pharmacy Association (NPA), the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS), the Centre for Pharmacy Postgraduate Education (CPPE) and NHS England, to make sure that recommendations from the project and resources can be utilised and acted on as widely as possible.

Key findings from the project

The project found that although negative experiences of pharmacy services are not the norm, a number of barriers exist such as access to information, clear communication, and explanation of the purpose of medicines.

Disabled people and their supporters’ common experience of pharmacy is one that is neither good nor bad. This is supported by feedback from pharmacists, with a third stating that their pharmacy is 'neither good nor bad' in meeting the needs of disabled people.

Dan Scorer, Head of Policy at Mencap explains: “Many disabled people, their families and supporters, were clear that there is significant room for improvement to make using pharmacy services a positive and empowering experience for disabled people in relation to meeting their health needs.

“Many pharmacists agreed that there was more they could do to bring this about. We are pleased that the project saw the co-production with disabled people and professionals of a wide range of resources that, linked in with important national initiatives, like the NHS Accessible Information Standard, and the rollout of Summary Care Records, will support pharmacists to open up their services to disabled people and improve health outcomes.”

Access the resources and wider project information here.

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