The evaluation has now been published of the pilot of the Pharmacy4Mums2B service. We look at the results.
Becoming a parent is a challenging time and for many mums, it can be overwhelming.
But last year, a pilot project was launched in which pharmacists supported and advised mums and mums-to-be.
The issues could range from dealing with morning sickness, to finding appropriate medication to take in pregnancy and getting the correct vaccinations.
And when the baby arrives, many new parents may find themselves needing help with colic, nappy rash or cracked and sore nipples.
A total of 35 pharmacists and 44 pharmacy assistants took part in the Pharmacy4Mums2B pilot programme, which ran across 30 pilot sites in North West London.
Funding was secured from Health Education England to get the project started.
“If the pharmacy develops a relationship with the women, they will continue to receive important information to live healthy lives”
Imperial College London has now evaluated the service, and it has been given a big thumbs up.
A total of 222 women registered and 94% ranked the service useful or very useful. While 59% of pharmacists said they felt the advice and service provided had made a difference to the client. The report also found that the training provided improved pharmacist knowledge of maternal and child health topics including immunisation, smoking cessation and oral hygiene.
The pilot also informed women about the use of apps where they could get further information. Women were able to receive free vitamin samples, which was a major strength of the project given the low numbers of women taking supplements when they registered.
Sanjay Doegar from Ruislip Manor Pharmacy said: “It was an empowering project to be involved in. There was a lot of work needed by pharmacists to get it together. We had a lot of staff engaging in learning.
“There were gaps in people’s understanding, but it was empowering to see what the team could introduce to parents.
“It has opened our eyes to what we could do. Parents will come to us for minor ailments and a lot of the time they just need reassurance.
“The midwives were really keen to get us on board in terms of getting the parents to attend the early appointments. I think this will help parents and drive more activity through the pharmacies.
“It’s about that trust and having people come back to purchase their medication or other prescription requirements through the pharmacy - that’s the knock-on benefit.”
The evaluation found that the scheme was “likely to have indirect benefits on reducing pressures on other health care providers, including general practitioners and maternity services”.
It found that the scheme was “likely to have indirect benefits on reducing pressures on other health care
providers, including general practitioners and maternity services”.
Pharmacists reported that the greatest benefit was the effectiveness in directly increasing clients’ knowledge in areas such as oral health checks, early booking for antenatal clinics, immunisations, healthy lifestyles and taking folic acid and vitamin D.
The evaluation concluded that the service “provides an excellent service to expectant and new mothers which is easily accessible”.
It added that the biggest area for improvement was to keep pharmacists engaged in the project by prompting women to register with the service and encouraging other healthcare professionals to refer women directly.
Vasundra Tailor, Consultant Pharmacist at The Middlesex Pharmaceutical Group of LPCs, said: “Our team at the LPC and Imperial College think this is an excellent service that should be available from every pharmacy.
“Our pilot went well, considering there was no remuneration for the pharmacies. “Knowing how busy pharmacies are, our LPC employed two part-time pharmacists to visit them regularly, taking updated information, monthly newsletters, sample products to give out.
“There were some challenges, such as language barriers with some clients and difficulties with the IT. But with our support, a total of 222 women benefited from the free service.”
Now that the project has been a success, will it be rolled out nationally?
Vasundra said: “There are several steps to take before that is possible. We need more clinical outcome data, more promotion and a commitment from local commissioners to fund the service.
“Together with Imperial College, we have forwarded the evaluation to many CCGs, Public Health departments, NHSE, academic institutions, antenatal and maternity units to gain their support.
“They all agree it is a good service, but so far, no funding has been forthcoming. One thing is for sure: the more widespread the publicity, the more chance of taking this further to the next level.”
Beneficial all round
Why is this such an important service?
“Many pregnant women do not attend antenatal clinics early enough, they may not know how important it is to take things like folic acid and vitamin D, and they may be living unhealthy lifestyles,” Vasundra added. “Expectant mothers and mothers with babies benefit from knowing about free dental health, free flu and other vaccinations, breastfeeding support, infant feeds, and so much more.
“Community pharmacies are so accessible and these clients go into them on a regular basis. It is the ideal location to give advice, or to repeat the advice given to them elsewhere. “If the pharmacy develops a relationship with the women, they will continue to receive important information to live healthy lives. The evaluation shows how helpful the women found it and pharmacists found the service beneficial too.”