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The Missing Link

By Fintan Moore - 31st May 2023

The success of pharmacists administering flu and Covid vaccines makes Fintan Moore wonder if this relationship with patients can be further leveraged

The involvement of pharmascists in flu and Covid vaccination programme has demonstrated further proof of something that we always knew, namely that we are pretty useful when you want to reach a wide population base with a healthcare initiative. In particular, large numbers of people who have started to get regular annual flu vaccinations in a pharmacy setting were never previously in the habit of doing so, indicating that we are able to connect with people that don’t routinely engage with other areas of the health service.
So, the obvious question is, how can this ability to communicate be leveraged to benefit population health?

For instance, an organisation called The Climate and Health Alliance was formed in 2019, which is made up of a number of public health organisations and advocacy groups from around the island of Ireland. The alliance currently has 20 members, including the Irish Heart Foundation, the IMO and the ICGP. On the Alliance’s website, it states that it “seeks to highlight the enormous public health harms that arise from climate change while emphasising the significant health benefits that can be unlocked by tackling global warming; provide a platform for health professionals and organisations to act; and advocate for greater government action in addressing the climate crisis so that the health benefits are attained”. One of their aims is “raising public awareness of the links between health and climate change”.

Their website is worth a read, and they have correctly identified that the rise in the consumption of ultra-processed food, especially sugary drinks and takeaway meals, and of high levels of red and processed meat, is bad for both the environment and the general health of the population. A shift towards more plant-based diets, cooked using healthier ingredients, would help address both issues. For educating the public on ways to do this, would it make sense
for pharmacies to participate in some way? Pretty much every pharmacy in the country has some kind of online presence, whether it be a website, Facebook, Instagram, dedicated apps or other options. If you wanted to disseminate advice on healthier eating, including simple nourishing or vegetarian recipes, I can’t think of a more efficient way to do it than via pharmacy. So, should we try to get on board?

SIMPLY TBESS

Like every other business in the country, pharmacies have seen their energy costs hike dramatically in the last 12 months. In general, pharmacies are lucky in that we tend not to be overly ‘power-hungry’. Our fridges, PCs and printers don’t consume too much electricity. I changed my lighting  to LEDs a few years ago so they’re very efficient, and my main drain is my air- conditioning unit, especially when used for heating in the winter months. As a consequence of my electricity bills being not very hefty in the first place, I was a bit slow off the mark to look seriously at the Government’s Temporary Business Energy Support Scheme (TBESS). I was vaguely aware of the details, but it was only when I compared bills from a year ago with recent bills that I realised my costs had doubled. So, registering and claiming the TBESS rebate was actually worth doing. It took a couple of hours to complete the process but the rebate came to over €500, which was a pretty good return on the time spent.

THE UNRELIABLE NARRATOR

One of the banes of life in community pharmacy is the ever-present possibility of shoplifting. There’s no way to prevent it completely, so I try to limit the possible damage by keeping expensive stock where we can keep an eye on it. Even that isn’t foolproof, so whenever we’re pricing items we factor in a bit extra to allow for the stuff that goes out the door without going through the till. We do try to spot the dodgy customers, but it’s not always easy, and even if you get a vibe that somebody’s a bit scummy, they can still manage to pocket something. Sometimes the only way to confirm suspicions is by replaying the CCTV footage after they leave to see if they did actually steal. If the video shows that they did get lucky, then at least we know that we can bar them from coming in again.

However, we had a case recently where the CCTV footage confirmed the opposite. Three teenage girls were in, and raised no hackles with any of us. Then after they left, a guy stuck his head in the door to say that he’d seen one of them taking stuff off a shelf. He had been outside but had spotted the girl through the window. So we replayed the footage for the time the girls were in, and it turned out that they were innocent. One of them had been eating from a large bag of sweets and took off her  backpack and put it on the floor to put the remains of the bag into it. Our eye-witness had thought she was putting in stolen stock. The worrying thing is how easily that could have escalated into us wrongfully accusing her, with all the dire legal consequences that could have ensued.

Choose your enemies carefully, and your friends very carefully!

CONTRIBUTOR INFORMATION

Fintan Moore graduated as a pharmacist in 1990 from TCD and currently runs a pharmacy in Clondalkin. His email address is: greenparkpharmacy @gmail.com.

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