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Learning by experience

From Ms V. Kernick

Running public health campaigns is not quite a piece of cake, but we have learnt a lot after the first one. We wanted to link our community pharmacy public health campaigns to the needs of our local population. This was achieved in two ways: first, we got pharmacists to identify their interests and, secondly, we linked the campaign to disease areas identified in the local health needs assessment, which were higher than the national average. The public health team were invited to attend a pharmacy forum meeting to discuss the health needs assessment and this was followed by group discussion to agree a programme for future campaigns.

The pharmacists agreed to put together a “cancer calendar”, which could link into the national agenda, set out in the Department of Health’s health events programme. With the advent of the new community pharmacy contract we were unrealistically enthusiastic about the programme. Reality soon set in and to date we have only run two campaigns, with a third planned before April.

The first was on sun awareness and skin cancer, but there were problems. We failed to engage the media in raising awareness that information was available at local pharmacies. As chance would have it they ran various stories about people whose lives had been touched by melanoma, but did not add that advice could be given in pharmacies. This resulted in limiting a potential target audience.

There were also difficulties with co-ordinating materials and communication between teams in the primary care trusts. We underestimated the time needed to plan the campaign and wait for delivery of leaflets. This resulted in a rather hasty circulation of materials with little briefing for pharmacy staff about messages we were trying to get across to the public. And the week we chose to evaluate the numbers of people receiving advice was the one week in Devon when the sun did not appear at all.

From the pharmacy perspective some pharmacies thought that they had to extend their role even further without any additional resources. Their autonomy was reduced, because the PCT is required to identify the campaigns and provide materials. Some felt constrained by the requirements of maintaining corporate identity; others had little space for displays or leaflets.

So changes had to be made. Preparation time and planning needed to be increased and we needed to invest in brief intervention training. We needed to engage the media in a much more active way and we needed to consider the financial resources implication in this cash-strapped NHS.

The first campaign turned out to be a steep learning curve but, on reflection, the weaknesses have turned full circle and we had a much more successful campaign second time around. For the second campaign we chose to support the Breast Cancer Awareness Campaign. By tapping into a national campaign we had a lot more media exposure. Posters and leaflets were ordered well in advance and members of the medicines management team delivered materials so that target audiences for the different types of leaflets could be explained. The method of evaluation was clearly discussed and displays considered. Brief intervention training was offered and the campaign went better from the pharmacist’s point of view.

Vicky Kernick
Medicines Management Facilitator
Exeter Primary Care Trust

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal URI: 10020790

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