“I THINK community pharmacy is the embodiment of personalised medicines,” said Sally Arnison, pharmacist independent prescriber, and owner of Barnton Pharmacy, at a Royal Pharmaceutical Society event on personalised medicine in the Scottish Parliament.
“It’s the community pharmacists working in Scotland’s 1,200 pharmacies who put the person at the centre of personalised medicines.”
Most of Sally’s time was spent ensuring that the person was put at the centre of her practice to ensure they got the most out of their medicines.
To facilitate this, she supported two “great initiatives” which made healthcare more “personalised, patient-centred and passionate”. These were the ‘Hello, my name is…’ campaign, started by Dr Kate Granger, because “introductions build trust and show compassion, and are maybe the step that makes the difference for that person, that day”, and the Scottish Government’s ‘What matters to you?’ campaign.
“I try to find out what matters to my patients. In my practice, I have the luxury of getting to know them: I know their families, I know where they live, I know how they live, and their living circumstances. Because I know them very well, it’s easy to spot when they are unwell and things are going wrong.
“It would be very easy for me to start a complex polypharmacy review for a patient with COPD who is receiving 25 repeat medicines by simply striking off the pain killers that were making them more confused. But, if I start by asking ‘what matters to you?’ I’m going to get a very different answer, and nearly always, the answer has nothing to do with medicines.”
It could be something as simple as getting a grab rail installed for a patient who was too scared to go outside because they were worried they might fall, or arranging care for someone with dementia whose regular family carer was at breaking point.
“None of these are anything to do with medicines, but they are the bit that matter, and they are the bit that make the difference to that patient.” These interventions were cost-effective, easy to put in place and personalised, she said.
Personalised medicines would “undoubtedly make the difference for many patients in Scotland”, however, those patients would still need the support of community pharmacists.
“The people on these medicines would still be living in our communities, so community pharmacists need to know about it and deal with patients receiving them, and answer their questions. Community pharmacists can adapt and change — we need to make sure we are prepared to meet the challenges of personalised medicines, but remember to keep the patient at the centre,” she said.