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Fact sheet

Identifying carers through Pharmacies

Community Pharmacies

There are about 12,000 pharmacies in the UK (about one per 4,000 people) – and they range from small independent shops to big stores like Boots, and units in supermarkets. Medicine is the most frequent clinical service provided for patients:

  • England’s GP’s write more than 600 million prescriptions each year. 94% of the population visits a pharmacy at least once a year.

Community Pharmacies have a key and expanding role in health care in the community. The Government sees them as one of the partners in delivering reductions in health inequalities (see "Tackling Health Inequalities: A Programme for Action" DoH 2003). The White Paper "Your Health, Your Care, Your Say" 2006 also maps out an enlarged role for pharmacies following the new contract introduced in April 2005:

"Signposting people to other health and social care services and to support services, and supporting self care and people’s well-being, are now essential services to be provided by every community pharmacy".

There are 15 million people in England with longer-term health needs – a large and growing group. Many of these people – and their carers – will be regularly returning to their local Community Pharmacy to pick up repeat prescriptions.

The Trust’s research in Scotland - Focus on Carers and the NHS – identifying and supporting hidden carers: Good Practice Guide (71 KB) quotes the following statistics:

"600,000 people a day use the services of the 1150 pharmacies in Scotland. Of those collecting prescription medication, it is estimated that 80% will be for repeat prescriptions. It is also likely that a substantial number of these repeat prescription will be collected either for or by carers, thus placing community pharmacists in a pivotal position to establish contact with carers."

Identifying and referring carers

The biggest challenge for those providing services to carers is to get the “carer” message across. Many people misunderstand the term and services have to find a way of marketing the message appropriately - for example in printed material using the expression “Do you look after someone?” rather than “Are you a carer?”. Understanding is sometimes improved through using the term "family carer" or "unpaid carer" in Scotland.

As pharmacies are in touch with large numbers of people with care needs and their carers, they are in a key position to help Carers’ Centres market their services.

Some Carers’ Centres have worked with a local Pharmacy to identify and refer people to the centre for help. They have done this by providing materials (for instance a leaflet or card) to be placed in prescription bags – aiding identification and giving details of the local Carers’ Centre. Some provide tear off cards or slips for return to the centre, and some include a request for agreement to pass on information to the carer’s GP. For an example see the self-referral slip below:

Salford Carers self referral slip example

Moray Carers’ Centre (which was part of the Scottish pilot (see above) had 100 returns from 8,340 cards distributed by the pharmacy. This is a 1.2% return. Whilst this seems small, the cost of materials and staff time was very small – making this a cost-effective method of identifying carers. The Report concludes, on the basis of a number of pilot sites, that a likely average return would be about 1%.

Download Moray's sample pharmacist letter (54 KB).

Carers’ Centres and Pharmacists can enhance the partnership in other ways:

  • Providing a poster for display in the pharmacy
  • Providing other leaflets and information either for display or for the Pharmacist to hand out at his/her discretion.
  • Developing the relationship between the pharmacist and centre staff to ensure all are aware of the positive benefits available from referrals

For more information about the pilot project in Scotland, download the full Good Practice guide here (270 KB).

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