Duncan’s blog: Person-centred care for all

16 August 2017

Person-centred care sits at the heart of our standards for pharmacy professionals, and should sit at the heart of pharmacy practice. When we talk about ‘person-centred care’, it is inevitable that our first thoughts focus on the person receiving care. But we know that person-centred care can also make an enormous difference to the carers and loved ones supporting them.

I recently read a moving account from the Very Reverend Martyn Percy, Dean of Christ Church in Oxford, about how interactions with his local pharmacists affected him as he cared for, and subsequently lost, a loved one battling cancer. It’s a poignant and eloquent reflection on how person-centred care from a pharmacy professional affected him in his grief.

Some of you will know that in December 2016 we lost Emma’s brother to cancer.  Chaz was 49, and had been living with Emma and myself for several months, as he could no longer live independently.  We were ably, exceptionally and kindly supported by staff here in the House, and in the last week of his life by Sobell House.  Indeed, I particularly want to pay tribute to the care and support from all the staff of the House during this time:  it was exceptional, tender and kind.

In between my brother-in-law coming to live with us and his end, part of my fortnightly routine had been to take him to the doctors, and also do the weekly run to the pharmacy for the morphine and other drugs.  We would walk up to Beaumont Street for the regular appointments, and call in to Boswell’s pharmacy department on the way home.  So after Chaz had passed away, I returned to the pharmacy with a card and some chocolates and a large quantity of un-used drugs that could have sold very well on the black market.  (I jest, I hasten to add).  The gifts for the pharmacy staff were a simple ‘thank you’ to Anna and Alison, the two pharmacists who had worked so hard on the dosette boxes of medication, and patiently measured out each day’s drugs:  fiddly, mundane work that requires concentration and precision.  But they had always done it with such cheerfulness, and on the days I had sometimes taken Chaz with me, they were always so good to him too.

So I plonked my shopping bag of drugs on the countertop of the pharmacy, conveyed our thanks for all they had done, and handed over the chocolates.  We chatted for a while, and I was about to take my leave when they said ‘wait there please – don’t move’.  And then they came out from behind the counter, and warmly embraced me – a hold of deep knowing, acknowledgement and consoling.   So there the three of us embraced in the middle of Boswell’s pharmacy.  We probably made quite a sight; a most unusual trinity.

(Reproduced with the kind permission of the Very Reverend Martyn Percy from ‘Untamed Gospel’, Canterbury Press)

Mr Percy’s reflections are obviously not unique. Every day in Great Britain there are undoubtedly scores of similar examples of pharmacy professionals who not only dispense medicines and advice, but do so with empathy and compassion for both the patients and their carers and loved ones.

And just as patients benefit from the support of their team of carers and loved ones involved in their well-being, the delivery of safe and effective care is enabled and supported by all members of the pharmacy team – including unregistered pharmacy staff. We don’t regulate these individuals, but it is within our remit to ensure that the entire pharmacy team works effectively as an essential part of providing good-quality care.

We recently launched a consultation on new guidance for pharmacy owners to provide greater clarity on this; specifically, the roles and responsibilities when it comes to the pharmacy team. Informed by feedback we received, including in our online workshops on quality in pharmacy, we are proposing to strengthen and assure the regulatory framework for unregistered staff.

In the past, individual pharmacists have been responsible for training staff, including unregistered staff. In the draft guidance, we set out that pharmacy owners will be accountable for ensuring that all staff working in the pharmacy are competent and empowered to provide safe and effective care to people using their services.

The draft guidance also emphasises the importance of staff in managerial or leadership positions, who may or may not be a registered pharmacy professional, understanding that pharmacy professionals must prioritise patient safety over organisational goals.

We know from our online workshop that many of you have strong views on ensuring a safe and effective pharmacy team, so I would encourage you to take our consultation survey and let us know what you think.

I also encourage you to share Martyn Percy’s story with your colleagues – registered and unregistered - and reflect on the patients and the carers you encounter every day who also benefit from the person-centred care you provide.