Organisations work together to improve unpaid carers’ access to medicines across Wales during the COVID-19 pandemic
Carers Trust Wales, in partnership with the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, Community Pharmacy Wales, Carers Wales and Welsh Government, has developed a suite of resources to support unpaid carers – those who provide support to a friend or family member who due to illness, disability, a mental health condition or an addiction cannot cope without their support - to be better able to access essential medicines during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In recent weeks unpaid carers have described facing a growing range of pressures which have included struggling to arrange medicine delivery slots and coping with long queues at the pharmacy as a result of necessary social distancing measures. This has resulted in some carers feeling worried and frustrated about their ability to access medicines when they need them.
Additionally, a growing number of young carers have reported being turned away from pharmacies, causing distress for families where the only person able to collect a prescription is a young carer.
Simon Hatch, Director of Carers Trust Wales, said:
“Network Partners of Carers Trust Wales, local charities that work directly with unpaid carers, have reported to us that accessing medicines has caused particular stress and concern for many unpaid carers over the past few weeks.
“At a time where unpaid carers are under extra emotional, physical and financial pressure it is important that they do not face additional hurdles to accessing medicines that they or their loved ones rely on.
“We’re delighted to have led a partnership that has developed tools to help carers and pharmacists work together to make sure that everyone who needs to access medicines is able to do so as easily as possible.”
Claire Morgan, Director of Carers Wales, adds:
“Carers Wales has repeatedly heard from unpaid carers about the difficulties this current pandemic is creating for them in looking after their family members and friends.
“We are pleased to be working in partnership to support carers access to medication at this challenging time.”
Pharmacy teams have had to adapt quickly to ensure that people can continue to benefit from community pharmacy during the pandemic. The necessary changes that have been made have impacted on all who attend community pharmacy, including unpaid carers.
This week Carers Trust Wales, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, Community Pharmacy Wales and Carers Wales have written to pharmacists across Wales to set out simple things that can be put in place to improve carers’ experiences and ability to access the medicines they need. These include:
- Providing specific support and information to assist unpaid carers in store
- Allowing two people into store when the carer has no choice but to take the person being cared for to the pharmacy with them
- Considering prioritising un-paid carers of vulnerable / shielding people for medicine delivery slots
- Recognising that, for some families, young carers are the only people able to collect medicines in the household
Elen Jones, Director of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society in Wales, said:
“We recognise the significant contribution of unpaid carers to health and social care and appreciate their important support for people who need regular medication.
“We are therefore very pleased to be part of this partnership approach to encourage a greater understanding of the current and unprecedented demands facing carers and pharmacists.
“We hope this will support continuity of care for people that are cared for by unpaid carers right across Wales.”
Judy Thomas, Director of Contractor Services, Community Pharmacy Wales, said:
“Community Pharmacy Wales has long recognised the need to work sensitively and proactively with carers to help dispense medicines to often vulnerable patients.
“This suite of resources is a major step forward and we are glad to have been part of its development to support an increased understanding for carers in relation to community pharmacy and for community pharmacy teams in relation to carers.”
A guide has also been published to support unpaid carers to make the most out of their pharmacy team. It sets out helpful hints and tips for carers including:
- Ordering prescriptions at least seven days before they are needed
- Only ordering as much medicine as needed
- Checking dispensing hours before visiting a pharmacy
- Asking family, friends or a local action group to help if you’re unable to collect a prescription
- Making an emergency plan in case you become unwell and cannot collect medication
- Asking your pharmacy for support. They may suggest a local voluntary group who can help or in some instances, arrange a delivery
- Making sure you know the full name, address and date of birth for anyone you’re collecting a prescription for and bringing ID with you to the pharmacy
Identifying carers can be difficult for professionals. To combat this Carers Trust Wales, Carers Wales and Welsh Government have developed a letter for carers of all ages which explains why they might need extra support and understanding. This standard letter will be made available to local authorities and carers services across Wales to help in areas where no other forms of identification are already in place.
The Deputy Minister for Health and Social Services, Julie Morgan AM, said:
“Unpaid carers are doing vital work during this difficult time. By working in partnership, we are identifying the support carers need to help them continue to provide the lifeline of support now and in the future”
More information can be found about this awareness raising campaign online at carers.org/wales/COVID19.
Welsh Language press release is available here.