Tag Archives: NHS

Manic Monday

There has been one question that we have asked over and over again during the past month:

“DO YOU HAVE ANY LATERAL FLOW TESTS?”

For months we have been able to order lateral flow tests from our suppliers, that is the same suppliers that deliver usually twice a day (once on Saturdays) our order of prescription medicines, devices, dressings etc. The size of our daily order/delivery of dispensary stock can vary. If we have a lot of prescriptions for a lot of medications that we do not have at hand on our shelves – the order is bigger. I guess the average is two-four boxes, but sometimes we have a delivery of six or more boxes of medicines etc.

When we ordered a carton of lateral flow tests (which has around 56 smaller boxes each containing 7 lateral flow tests) it would be brought by the same supplier bringing the dispensary order, and for most of the year, that carton would last around three or four days.

blue and white box on brown wooden table

Until December. As the demand increased, we found that one carton of 56 test kits was not lasting a day. So we tried to order more cartons. Our suppliers explained we were not allowed to order more than one carton a day, because there is not space in the delivery vans to accommodate more than one box per pharmacy. We understood that. Do you think our customers could understand that?

There was no shortage of lateral flow tests waiting in warehouses, but unless they find another way of transporting them (during a time we know there is a shortage of drivers) the logistics of supplying enough boxes to meet a demand caused partly by people just wanting to test before seeing family during the holidays, and partly by a media ignited wave of panic – it made it seem like a crisis. A crisis it was not.

Then the media started reporting that there was a national shortage of lateral flow tests and that no pharmacies had any. That was not accurate. But it did seem to start a wave of panic (just like the paracetamol crisis, alcohol gel crisis, toilet paper crisis, and the fuel crisis) and now we found even more people rushing in to ask for lateral flow tests. Now one carton was only lasting an hour.

We told our customers about the gov.uk web page for ordering kits to be delivered to your home address. They told us there were none available. I have found that a few times myself, but I have been still able to order test kits for me and my family by being patient and persistent. I understood from official sources that again there was no shortage of test kits, but the logistics of getting them delivered was a challenge. All year the Royal Mail have been delivering them. But during December, probably the busiest time of year for the Royal Mail, the demand exceeded the capacity. I saw news reports saying that other delivery companies were going to help out with this challenge (even though they are probably working extra hours during December as well).

So….we did something that we don’t really like to do….but it seemed to be the most sensible option. We put up signs that read:

Do you think that worked? If I had a penny for every time someone had approached the counter and said, “I saw the sign, but I was wondering if you do actually have any test kits?” I would be a wealthy man.

Why would we do that? Do you think we are twisted? The sign disappears for an hour a day when we do have tests, and our customers come in and take one, and then presumably send a WhatsApp message to everyone they know, because we have a sudden rush that clear us out within an hour. Then the sign goes back up on the counter until our delivery the next day.

Yes….it is a crazy time for Pharmacy teams. Trying to keep up with prescriptions when we spend so much time on the counter responding to enquiries about lateral flow tests has been bizarre. I am hoping it settles now that the holidays are out of the way. In the meantime, I just ordered a box from the gov.uk web page. So if you really need tests kits, please try to order them online to be delivered to your home. Most pharmacies will be closed today.

Manic Monday

Private prescriptions are a pain in the neck! The vast majority of prescriptions we receive are NHS prescriptions and they are straightforward. Usually the instructions are straightforward, if customers pay, the price is standard – always £9.35 for each medication. They just cut down all the calculations and extra work.

Some private prescriptions are anything but straightforward! Often they are handwritten, and almost impossible to read. Sometimes we have to ring the prescriber to ask what their prescription says. I wish they could just use a computer to produce prescriptions.

Sometimes the private prescription is for an unusual medication, not available on the NHS. The cost of some medicines can be hundreds of pounds. The customer is always keen to know the price before we dispense their prescription, only – we only know the price after we have dispensed it. It is so frustrating when they change their mind after we have dispensed it. We then have to reverse the dispensing. Twice as much work, and pointless because the customer has decided to go and ask other pharmacies to do the same thing.

Whenever a customer appears with a private prescription, my heart sinks a little.

Manic Monday

One of the services our pharmacy offers is managing the medication of some of our customers by assembling a dosette box.

It is a time consuming task. We have to carefully prepare the customers scheduled medications in a plastic tray, morning, lunch, dinner and bedtime medications. It requires lots of concentration. It is so easy to make a mistake with some of these tiny tablets.

It takes the pharmacist a lot of time and concentration to check they are correct. If the customer takes several medications that look the same, it is especially challenging.

But it is an important service, so we are proud to support our customers with the dosette medication box service. However, the one phone-call we dread is when after all the work that has gone into preparing the dosette box, a Doctor’s surgery calls us to tell us that there have been changes made to our customer’s medication.

Manic Monday

We have been open throughout the Pandemic. We have always been busy. But now that other non-essential shops in our area are open too, our queues are steadily growing longer and longer.

Last week I arrived at work and had to deal with one customer after another after another. At first they were all asking for advice on minor ailments. I have to ask them questions about their symptoms and whether they have already tried any other medications or treatments. I have to check if they take any other regular prescription medication. I have to respond with information, recommendations on products they can try or signpost them to other health service providers. These conversations take time. The queue seems to be getting longer and longer while I give a customer attention.

Then further along the queue, were customers who had come to collect their medication. Only, when I checked, nobody had been able to dispense it yet because they have been so busy with other tasks. I have to apologise to the customer, give them an estimate as to how long it will take to get it ready, and ask them to return while serving the next customer. I asked one of the team to dispense the prescription for the customer who was going to return.

Twenty minutes later, I am still dealing with the queue of customers that keeps growing, and when I check, they have still not dispensed the customer’s prescription because the phone never stops ringing inside the dispensary.

The customer was angry his prescription was still not ready. I had to apologise to the other people queuing, and make them wait, while I go into the dispensary, gather the medications, label each item and put it in front of the Pharmacist who is intense discussions with a Doctor so that she can check it.

I have to return to the customer, and tell him it is nearly ready, but it has to be checked by the Pharmacist before it can be give out. He is ticked off. The queue behind him are also getting irritated.

Oh life in a Pharmacy! It is not for the faint hearted!

Manic Monday

That time we dread is here: STOCKTAKE!

Why is it a fearsome thing. An external team come in. They take forever! We have to carry on with work, serving customers and dispensing prescriptions.

Suddenly it becomes very cosy with six people instead of three working in a small space. They have to ask us questions throughout the day. As closing time drawers to a close, often they have still not finished and we have to break away from our work to make sure that we the job is finished and we can lock up and go home before midnight.

Manic Monday

Last week I watched the news on Friday morning which claimed that every adult in England could collect a box of lateral flow tests from locations such as Pharmacies.

Having left work last thing on Thursday night, I thought to myself, “Oh no, we are going to end up with a queue of people coming to ask for lateral flow test kits when we don’t have any. But to my surprise, when I turned up on Friday morning, there they were – a huge box of lateral flow test kits was waiting for us.

No sooner had they arrived than people started to pour in to ask for them.

Manic Monday

Changes can be challenging. Within our pharmacy, we have had to make a lot of changes during the course of the past year. Some of them are great changes in many ways, others are harder to understand.

We received instructions to clean the counter area every hour and we have a rota to make sure it is done. That’s a good thing. We all see the need for that. But fitting it into a busy work day and remembering to do it has sometimes been a challenge.

Then there are changes our customers might not always see. Head Office ask us to do “things” – either completely new aspects of our work (which has nothing to do with the basic role of the pharmacy) or just doing things differently. It slows us down to incorporate all these changes. We see our main role as dispensing prescriptions and giving advice on minor ailments.

Sometimes that does not seem enough for the big bosses who I guess are looking at the figures and trying to make us stand out to win customers over from our competitors. So now, we can’t just be team of pharmacy assistants and a pharmacist, we have to be pushy sales assistants, technological wizards, social media gurus, influencers, sex life advisors,…and more. Sometimes I am afraid that after our customers stand there and listen to our pitch to try to get them to sign up for every service we offer and buy products they never heard of before (and don’t really need) – will they ever want to come back to our pharmacy again?

Manic Monday

Life in a pharmacy can be intense. Customers do not always realize how much work we have to do, work that we need to concentrate on so that we do not make mistakes.

Sometimes we have a rush of customers all come in at the same time presenting us with prescriptions. We have to ask them to return in ten minutes (or if we have lots of prescriptions we may increase that waiting time accordingly).

Last week, a customer turned up with five pages of prescriptions with almost twenty items listed on them. Knowing we were already processing the prescriptions of several customers who were soon to return to the pharmacy to collect the medications on prescriptions they had handed in earlier, I explained to the customer that it would take time to gather all the stock, label them and have the pharmacist check them. I asked if they could return to collect the prescription in around half an hour.

I am not going to repeat what the customer said. Wow! Just wow! It’s been a long time since I heard such a vitriol of contempt and scorn.

Of course, you can be sure that Jacob Nyamake was polite as always!

Manic Monday

The latest situation we seem to be facing in the Pharmacy? We have had a number of patients that just seem….well…”lost”. They talk to us about minor ailments and aches. But when we ask them questions, their symptoms are so confusing we have to refer them to the Pharmacist.

When the Pharmacist tries to make sense of what they are reporting to us, it seems most likely that their symptoms are brought on by stress. It has been a stressful year, so that is no surprise.

We were talking about it last week. So many of our patients seem to be neglected. They have not been able to have the occasional ten minute appointment with their GP over the past twelve months. They stumble into the Pharmacy looking clueless. They know they don’t feel right, but they have no idea what could be causing it.

Our role is now involving a lot more reassurance to our customers that the NHS cares about them and wants to help them. But wow, it is so time-consuming. It is really challenging to give half an hour to a customer that needs to talk when you have forty prescriptions to dispense before customers arrive to collect their medications.

We are trying to get that balance right, but it is challenging. We are all huge believers that sometimes, a little kindness can make a huge difference to the welfare of our customers.

Manic Monday

I know that the Pandemic has been stressful, but we have seen some strange behaviour at times from customers. One of the daily challenges we have in Pharmacy is customers who come to collect their prescriptions or buy a box of Solpadine Max when the Pharmacist is absent on their lunch break.

Legally, we are not allowed to do certain tasks while the Pharmacist is not there to supervise our activities. We are not permitted to give out prescription medications or to sell Pharmacy only medications.

Our Pharmacists usually work for twelve hour shifts. They are allowed an hour’s lunch break. Most just go for a quick walk to the nearby supermarket, buy a sandwich or a microwave meal and then come back to the Pharmacy and eat their lunch in a corner.. Usually they are only absent for ten minutes. But while the have gone, we cannot give out prescription medications.

Some customers accept that and return later on. Others throw an absolute wobbly and start ranting about how ridiculous it is. One of the challenges in Pharmacy is that some customers don’t seem to accept that a Pharmacist who works twelves hours is allowed a break to stretch their legs and buy some lunch.