Preston pharmacist urges public to stay safe as restrictions ease
A community pharmacist has asked for understanding from the public as chemists across the county continue to battle to restore their services.
Mike Ball, of Broadway Pharmacy, Fulwood, says there is lots of planning behind the scenes to deliver things like the flu vaccine and restore some normality and is telling residents: " We need to continue to be that little bit patient."
Staff across Lancashire have found that as other health services limit their contact with the public, more people have been turning up at chemists seeking face-to-face help with a "plethora of different things", meaning staff have had to try to adapt in difficult circumstances.
They have remained open throughout the crisis but staff have had a battle to manage the open door policy.
Mike, a dad-of-three, implemented social distancing at his pharmacy before lockdown even began, and took the decision to open seven days a week to help the community during the pandemic.
Staff saw a 25% increase in demand for prescriptions, as other services outside of dispensing, some of which take place in a private area, had to take a back seat.
Over the years the role of a pharmacist has changed drastically from simply dispensing medicines to offering community services such as flu jabs, medication reviews and health advice.
More than 44,000 flu jabs were given by Lancashire pharmacies last winter, and the pharmacy service is hoping to be able to launch an enormous vaccine programme in September ahead of the flu season.
Mike said: "It's been tough but really rewarding - it's a privilege to be in a position to help people.
"In my experience, we've had an incredibly grateful community but sadly the minority can spoil it for everyone and some haven't appreciated the efforts we've gone to. People have incredibly high expectations.
" We were quick to implement social distancing and PPE. To begin with it was scary for some patients. There's been a massive change for people to get their head around.
"The pandemic has been really upsetting for staff too, we have lost a number of long standing loyal patients. We are such a close knit pharmacy - some patients are our best friends.
"It is difficult as we want to cuddle and comfort people and we just can't. Sometimes people just need a listening ear and an affectionate pat on the back.
"It has become a bit transactional, it felt like we moved away from an involved interaction to just getting the work done."
He spoke as a national campaign, Stay Safe in your Pharmacy, is launched.
He added: "We are endeavouring to get back to this work, but are asking people please to understand we need to continue with being a bit careful while we are working to reintroduce services.
" We hope through the measures the Government imposed, that we've managed to contain the virus but we just don't know. We don't know how it will behave in different seasons or if it is mutating, so we need to continue with the cautious approach."
The campaign aims to inform people of the measures in place in community pharmacies so they know what to expect, and reassure them they can go there for help with minor ailments and long term conditions
The majority are operating very close to pre-lockdown with normal opening hours and re-commencement of many services.