Richard Griffiths, co-owner at Griffiths Pharmacy in Garden City, Deeside, talks to Saša Janković about running a diabetes screening and support service

Service type: Diabetes screening and support service

Name and location of pharmacy: Griffiths Pharmacy, Garden City, Deeside

Name of pharmacist: Richard Griffiths

Why did you start offering this service?

At the time I set it up about eight years ago, we’d had a big response to a patient questionnaire that we’d run which identified diabetes as a big health issue in our community. I wanted to design a service for that population. There’s a high incidence of Type 2 diabetes in Wales and it seems to be growing because of relatively poor diet and exercise habits.

How much did it cost to set up the service?

Not very much at all. I spoke to suppliers of diabetic equipment to see if we could get deals for free blood glucose monitors to give to patients, as this is something that gives newly diagnosed diabetics a bit of peace of mind.

What, if any, training did you or other team members have to undergo?

I've done diabetes CPD training as part of what was Wales Centre for Pharmacy Professional Education (WCPPE – now Health Education & Improvement Wales (HEIW)) and attended a few seminars and presentations. At the moment I’m studying to be an independent prescriber and I’m considering doing another course at university after that to further extend my knowledge base to become a prescriber in that field.

In a nutshell, what does the service involve?

If people recognise any common symptoms of diabetes – such as needing the toilet more frequently, excessive thirst, lethargy or tiredness – we offer them a fasting blood test to check their blood sugar. If it’s over 8mmol/l it’s a warning, and anything over 9mmol/l we will talk to their GP surgery to let them know. The GP may want to repeat the test, and we can help the patient firstly with advice about activity levels and diet. If they are put on medication we look after them in terms of their medicines management, and show them how use a blood glucose monitor.

We have also negotiated a deal with a local hotel to give patients with diabetes and heart conditions preferential rates so they can use the hotel’s gym at a reasonable cost – which has worked really well for the patients in our community.

If people have significant obesity we run also run a weight management service that we can tailor to the diabetic patient. We have found that if we can encourage them to lose a significant enough amount of weight it provides a motivational factor for them to change their lifestyle in terms of activity and exercise, which is critical to living with diabetes. Ideally, we want them to keep their blood sugar range to between 4 and 7mmol/l, so eating well, at appropriate times with appropriate portion sizes, and exercising regularly are all changes they need to make. All those little chunks of lifestyle changes make a big impact and deliver better sugar levels when put together, which reduces the risks of the long-term disease state.

We also look after type 1 diabetics as well. We make sure they have the right measures in place if their sugar levels drop through the floor, and can advise them about using the different types of insulin.

How have patients responded to the service?

We try to offer a holistic approach to looking after diabetic patients, and people really seem to like it. People are understandably anxious about any new condition, and diabetes is a significant disease state to be diagnosed with, so they appreciate someone giving them time, guidance and direction.

Roughly how often each month do you carry out the service?

Prior to the pandemic we saw two to three people a week, but that slowed over the last year or so. However, in the last month I have seen about five or six newly diagnosed patients coming in and asking questions.

How much do you charge for the service?

It’s free to all.

Would you recommend offering this service to other contractors? Yes, definitely. Diabetics are a big patient group in our area, and current and unknown diabetics have been put at further risk during the pandemic. It is also a significant patient group in terms of complications, and costs to the NHS, with many fellow health professionals involved in people’s care. It’s so critical we help patients get a grip on the disease and manage it day to day in terms of the way they are living their lives.

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