Remember the Hidden Heroes of the NHS

Happy National Pharmacist Day everyone!

Today we have a guest blog from a friend of The Hub who is a pharmacy technician in the NHS. Its very easy to forget about the crucial task that they carry out to help keep our health system functioning – especially over the last couple years when they have been busier than ever. Anton explains exactly what it is that NHS pharmacies do for us.

And with that, over to Anton…

With NHS workers being in the news more than ever now is a good time to discuss the role of pharmacy. Pharmacy is an often overlooked department within hospitals but one that provides a vital function concerning patient medication. The myth is that pharmacy’s job is little more than putting tablets in boxes but I assure you we do so much more than that.

Staff members across a variety of roles spend a lot of time on the wards. Routine visits from pharmacy staff ensure that each ward is always stocked with commonly used drugs like painkillers and antibiotics. Our medicines management technicians take drug histories from patients on arrival to ensure that they continue to receive all regular medication during their stay. These days patients are encouraged to bring their regular medication with them into hospital and these technicians are responsible for assessing the drugs to make sure they’re in a usable condition. They will also help to review medication during longer stays. When new drugs are prescribed we work closely with medical and nursing staff to ensure there are no problems like allergies or interactions.

Meanwhile, back in the dispensary, staff continually dispense medication for inpatient use, discharge, and clinics. Every prescription passes through multiple hands in order to get to you. A pharmacist screens the prescription to ensure everything is appropriate. Then our dispensing team will label and assemble the items. Finally, a checker who could be an accredited technician or a pharmacist will finally check the items to ensure everything is correct and in date. Only then can this be released to the patient.

But it doesn’t stop there. We have dedicated teams who receive our wholesale orders and ensure everything goes away in the correct place. Some of the larger pharmacies have robots, which are a great help, but there’s still a huge number of tablets, capsules, and liquids that pass through the pharmacy on a daily basis and they all need to find space on our shelves. Then there’s the procurement team who work with suppliers to keep pharmacy stocked, which is especially challenging right now as supply chains are disrupted.

Since the pandemic started pharmacy staff have been busier than ever. So the next time you hear about the pressures NHS workers face remember it’s not just doctors and nurses on the wards, there’s a whole pharmacy team working for you as well.

by Anton MacLeod