Maddyson Chan, a fourth year pharmacy student at Cardiff University, talks to Saša Janković about her idea for a drug consultation service for people with a disability.

Service type: Drug consultation service for individuals with a disability.

When did this service start?

The service does not currently exist, but was my winning idea in the BPSA Business and Enterprise Competition 2020, sponsored by Alliance Healthcare and Alphega Pharmacy.

What prompted the idea for this service?

The task for the competition was to come up with an innovative private service that would create a new revenue stream for community pharmacies, in order to mitigate the increase in fixed costs they are facing.

With a background in working with individuals with a disability, I recognised that disability is part of each and every population and is regularly underserved by society. I am a university student and have spent two summer breaks volunteering at summer camps in the USA for people with physical and developmental disabilities. These are the typical all-American camp experience but for people of all ages and with a wide range physical and developmental disabilities. As well as the usual activities you’d expect from a summer camp, these people also have to fit their medicines regimes into the day. There’s a team of nurses in charge of administering the medications, but for some people this could be five times a day, and others required total parenteral nutrition (TPN), drug infusions and so on.

For many of these people, medicines time was not always the smoothest part of the day, and it got me thinking about what could make it better for them. I realised that many of them probably didn’t know or understand why they had to take all these medicines, plus it was under different circumstances than they were used to at home or in their regular care facility environment. When it came to the BPSA competition I realised I had an idea that could translate into a service for community pharmacies to offer.

In a nutshell, what would the service involve?

My idea is for a private consultation service, tailored specifically towards people with a disability, which aims to improve their understanding of their medications and regimes using communication aids, more accessible resources and longer consultation times with the pharmacist.

In particular, I was thinking about the importance of such a consultation ahead of a person’s transition from a childhood home to more independent living – which typically happens between the ages of 19-26. There are lots of factors to contend with during this stage, and for the person’s current caregiver or family most of these are around their safety in the new environment they are moving to. While we like to think that moving into a care facility is going to be safe, there’s still going to be changes for the person such as having fewer individuals on hand to help them, and new carers to get used to.

Those who are able to do the transition should have some understanding their medicines, so the aim is to make them more aware before they move of what they are taking and why. The service is targeted at their parents, care givers or partners, as they will know if it’s something that’s going to be helpful to the person, and care homes can signpost incoming new residents to the service in pharmacies before they move in as well.

Good pharmacists are already fully equipped with all the drug knowledge and communication skills to help empower people in the management of their medications, so my proposal was to capitalise on this to help give a sometimes-forgotten population autonomy with regard to their medicines.

How much might it cost to set up the service?

Very little. You already have your consultation room, so all you may need is some extra training on diversity and disability.

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

Any competent pharmacist should be able to carry out the service, but some kind of communication aids could be useful to help them interact with their customer. In their most basic forms these are picture books, and there are plenty of these kinds of resources available from the various disability charities.

You might also decide to give staff some sensitivity training. A service like this won’t work if you have staff who are closed minded and not receptive to all patients, but I like to think everyone in a pharmacy is socially aware and kind.

Are there any opportunities to sell over the counter or prescription products during the consultation or after it?

Definitely, in the form of follow-up consultations. Care givers of people with a disability care so much and want their loved one to be safe and happy, so if they feel the service has been worthwhile it’s likely they will come back in future if the person’s medications change.

How often each month do you predict the service could be used?

Despite statistics showing 22% of the UK population have a disability this is still a population that is so easily forgotten in all walks of life. This service shouldn’t really need to exist – MURs should be enough but they don’t provide quite enough time for these customers, and so people fall through the gaps. Because nothing like this is really available right now, if you did start offering it you’d possibly see one person a week, but it is an ongoing service and has the potential to increase.

How much could you charge for the service?

This is up to the pharmacist, but I expect they would take into the consideration how much it would cost them to be out of the pharmacy for the length of the consultation.

Would you recommend offering this service to other contractors?

Absolutely. People with disabilities take a huge number of medications all the time, and as they age or medicines improve, their needs will change. Not only could your pharmacy get a reputation for helping this population, you could also enter into a world of possibility about visiting care homes and charity organisations to offer a wider service.

Read more case studies on how to set up a range of clinical services.