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Open all hours: The value of continuity in the coronavirus crisis

They say we’re all creatures of habit. I would say that’s certainly true of the majority of my patients at West Elloe Pharmacy, who feel a real sense of comfort in knowing they can pick up their medicines from us on a regular basis and that we’re available as and when they need our help.

In many pharmacies, of course, coronavirus changed all that. The escalation in demand has meant that some have had to take advantage of the ability to alter their opening hours at short notice – a move necessary to manage stock and support potentially overworked staff when there is a great deal of pressure on the system.

Unfortunately, patients rarely welcome or readily accept such changes, however necessary. Anything that is at odds with their expectations or threatens to disrupt their routine is problematic.

Resilience in the face of adversity

This has been one of the major factors behind the notable rise in Electronic Prescription Service (EPS) nominations we have received in recent weeks. We are the only pharmacy in the area that has not had to make any changes to opening hours, having moved quickly to protect our team with a ‘closed door’ policy, which remains in place.

Thankfully, our staff have remained well, and with the support of our two Pharmaself24 collection points we have been able to maximise our availability for patients. We don’t start late, close for lunch or finish early and medicines are available 24 hours a day from the Pharmaself24 collection points. We are, effectively, open all hours.

Raising awareness

The advent of the latest phase of the EPS has also helped, with local surgeries encouraging nominations in an effort to minimise paperwork and increase efficiency. We present a good option for many patients, particularly those who know our opening hours and those attracted by the 24/7 convenience of the Pharmaself24s.

For those who are less familiar, we have taken the step of advertising our pharmacy on Facebook, using a highly targeted campaign to raise awareness among the local population. It has been a resounding success so far, generating a positive response from the community, who have themselves help spread the word further.

Social distancing

The resulting increase in script numbers means the Pharmaself24s are now the engine room of our pharmacy, humming along on a near constant basis. In terms of numbers, the team have loaded more than 900 bags per week into the machines on average over the past four weeks – so that's close to 1,000 times each week that patients haven't had to queue, and have been able to keep their distance from other patients and staff. The positive impact of that on a normal pharmacy workflow is huge, but during a pandemic it is phenomenal.

The Pharmaself24s are complemented by a ticketing and queuing system to ensure our staff are here to answer any face-to-face questions from behind a screen, which we installed early on to adhere to social distancing guidelines.

Admittedly, it all looks very different from the pharmacy life our patients knew previously, but what it has done is ensure we bring them the consistency, continuity and predictability they need.

For more information on how a Pharmaself24 can help build resilience in your pharmacy setting, get in touch using the form below.

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