Pharmacy team rose to unprecedented challenges with volunteer support
29th November 2020
Submitted by Mark Savage, Sussex Community NHS Foundation Trust
At the end of 2019, Sussex Community NHS Foundation Trust established an in-house pharmacy dispensary with the aim of providing a centralised medicines supply to all its 13 Intermediate Care Units, 3 Minor Injury Units (MIUs), 2 Urgent Treatment Centres (UTCs), 15 clinics such as dental and podiatry and all other services (over 20 community teams) requiring any medicines. As part of the service development, the pharmacy dispensary department in Crawley, West Sussex, re-opened in March 2020 at the same time as the Covid -19 pandemic was at its most critical and concerning point, with all services under increased pressure coupling with the sharp rise in demand on our services. As a direct result, the demand on the Pharmacy department significantly increased during this period. It is due to the ever increasing demand on the dedicated and hardworking team and all whilst the service was undergoing major changes and through a transition, that this great team is so worthy of being on the Wall of Fame! The team handled the pressure and changes so well, enabling them to provide excellent and high quality- service.
At the start of the pandemic, the Voluntary service had been working closely with clinical teams across the Trust to respond to emerging and changing operational needs. We worked closely with the Team Manager Sara to create a brand new, exciting and innovative volunteer role which would support and contribute to the effectiveness of the team and wider organisation. The new role was called Volunteer Pharmacy Support Assistant.
Two committed and enthusiastic volunteers, Jan and Eleana joined the team; between them volunteering four mornings a week whilst supporting the busy team there with a variety of tasks. Jan is a long standing and very much valued volunteer at the Trust, having already volunteered her time with us supporting a seated exercise class. She went on to win the Volunteer of the Year Award in 2019 for her dedication, kindness and amazing commitment! Once again Jan stepped up and was keen to support the Trust in any way she could during Covid-19.
Eleana came to volunteer with us as her course at University had been temporarily put on hold due to Covid-19. She was keen to gain experience in a busy fast-paced department and is in fact training to be a paramedic! Eleana volunteered three mornings a week whilst juggling University work through distance learning – not easy! Although Jan and Eleanor didn’t have specific experience in a pharmacy, they both went for it with enthusiasm and energy, agreeing it would be a steep learning curve and challenge!
The way the team embraced and supported the volunteers in their new roles, whilst also themselves being stretched and having to learn new systems is a testament to the compassionate and inclusive approach adopted by all working there. Working together so well has made such a tremendous difference to both the experience and wellbeing of the volunteers and staff.
The volunteer tasks are varied and supportive of the pharmacy team’s objectives and have been instrumental in the successful team approach needed to achieve great things. These important tasks include supporting the enhanced cleaning needed during this challenging time and allowing trained staff to focus on dispensing medication. The volunteers and staff need to work together closely whilst completing a wide and varied task list. This involves ongoing, clear and timely communication within the Pharmacy team. Volunteers complete the temperature monitoring, receiving orders from 20 different suppliers, unpacking and checking orders against the delivery notes, completing admin and putting stock away. Picking stock against delivery notes to be packed and sent to a wide array of the Trust’s services is also part of this challenging but rewarding role. All these important tasks enabled the volunteers to learn so much about the running of the department including learning about both generic and trade names of medicines. This all wouldn’t have happened so well if the team had not embraced the volunteers and pulled together as one strong cohesive team.
The Pharmacy team consists of Dispensary managers, Technicians, Assistants and Volunteers, working together each day in a fast-paced and dynamic environment to provide a high quality, consistent and responsive service that benefits both clinical teams and ultimately vulnerable patients in need of life saving medication across Sussex. During the period of March to August 2020, the brilliant volunteers have spent a total of 384 hours supporting the team to deliver an outstanding, critical and impactful service.
Pharmacy Manager, Sara, says: “The regular support from both Eleana and Jan has been invaluable, taking pressure off our work force at a time where we have expanded our services. Eleanor and Jan have worked diligently, adapting and excelling in this busy department.”
Volunteer Jan comments on how much she feels part of the team and valued by all team members. The wellbeing of the volunteers is promoted by the teams welcoming approach. She said: “I am included in their morning meetings where issues and concerns are discussed. All of the staff in the pharmacy are approachable and have taken time to train me in the various tasks I carry out. They are very patient and encouraging, particularly bearing in mind that I have no previous experience in this field. They have made me feel like a valuable member of their team and have been very appreciative of the contribution I make.”
Volunteer Eleana is keen to return to volunteering in her holidays from University!
She explained: “If I ever had any questions about anything, a member of the team would always make time to help me and answer any queries I had. I would like to thank everyone in the department for being so kind to me and I hope to come back in the future”.
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