Student pharmacists are volunteering their expertise to support under-pressure pharmacies struggling to cope as the coronavirus takes hold.
Many chemists have reported being inundated with orders and people demanding months of repeat prescriptions, with Boots warning it may run out of paracetamol as shoppers try to stockpile. Patients have been urged to behave responsibly to try to remove some of the pressure on frontline staff.
Students at Leicester School of Pharmacy, based at De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) have volunteered to support the NHS at this critical time.
Third year Jay Patel is volunteering at a chemists in Macclesfield, his home town. He put out a message on Twitter offering to help and was contacted by several pharmacies needing his help. He has been doing daily shifts at the pharmacy ever since.
He also teamed up with pharmacist Johnathan Laird to create a website which matches volunteer health professionals with community pharmacies who need help. Volunteer pharmacists and NHS colleagues can also post where and how they can help.
Jay said: “I went into pharmacy wanting to help people, we all did, so I wanted to volunteer and help as much as possible. I think we have the expertise to jump in and support in ways that other volunteers who don’t have our skills and training could do.
“In community pharmacies, you’re dealing with people who are vulnerable and if you develop a cough you need to self isolate, and that leaves the chemist short staffed. Students tend to be a relatively low-risk group at the moment so while we can help, we should.”
Jay says he has seen people queuing, over-ordering and even people wanting repeat prescriptions for conditions that they had several years ago – showing the demand for support to frontline staff.
Jay hopes that the volunteering website will help more widely. In just two days 75 volunteers have signed up to the list.
Mr Laird said: “We are living through unprecedented times and as such we must all do our best to help. We want to help pharmacy teams help each other.
“We envisage, as per the modelling, that the workforce pressure in community pharmacy will continue to rise in the coming weeks.”
At DMU, the Pharmacy team is collating requests from local chemists and posting them to students via DMU’s Blackboard intranet who can then volunteer. They have placed students with chemists across the region.
Helen Root, course leader for Pharmacy, said: “Community pharmacy has seen unprecedented demand for services in the last week, as GPs started to close their doors and customers began ordering their prescriptions in advance. As a result, here at DMU we started to receive a number of requests from local and national community pharmacies asking for our students to help. Students have been keen to support as best they can at this time and we are proud of their efforts.”