Last month, goods manufacturer Reckitt Benckiser (RB) hosted Pharmacy Xchangeathon to identify ways for community pharmacy to lead on minor condition management and support self-care.

During the event, participants including pharmacists, technicians, pre-registration pharmacists, students and practice teachers offered solutions for pharmacies to help patients deal with pain management.

Dr Andrew Moore, director of pain research at the Nuffield department of anaesthetics at the University of Oxford, led the session and reports.

We all know that there are increasing pressures on our healthcare service, especially with an expanding population that is living longer.

There has been a recent trend towards self-care as part of the solutions to ease the pressures. Changing the way we manage minor ailments by increasing the role of the pharmacy could enable pharmacists to play a part in the self-care journey.

It’s crucial for pharmacists to have a thorough understanding of pain in order to be empowered to encourage self-care. Without comprehensive knowledge of over-the-counter (OTC) analgesics, pharmacists are hindered from recommending these medicines or advising patients on pain management.

Our discussions at Pharmacy Xchangeathon suggested adaptations to enable pharmacies to work with patients and provide them with the knowledge they need to manage their minor ailments, thus easing pressures on GP services.

The participants were tasked with finding practical ways to ensure pharmacies seize the opportunity to effectively lead first-line acute pain management services.

The first suggestion pitched at the event was a knowledge-based ‘myth busters’ solution. This hack tried to address some of the knowledge gaps and the myths that exist in pharmacy when it comes to pain management.

To equip pharmacists with the information they need, there could be the development of a white paper supported by a panel of experts across multiple disciplines. The paper would present evidence for pain management, to support effective decision-making. In particular, it would suggest how best to support patients and would provide pharmacists with the confidence to advise patients appropriately.

The second idea was a pharmacy-based solution called ‘99 problems but pain ain’t one’. This looked at how pharmacies can internally encourage more self-care activity. The problem at the moment is that customers purchase OTC medications that may not be ideal due to a lack of knowledge about pain relief.

The idea would be to create signs within pharmacies to categorise and scale acute pain – including toothache, migraine and back and period pain. This would support customers to understand their pain better and consider their treatment approach.

These boards would also encourage customers to seek advice from their pharmacists. In addition to this, the participants at the event suggested better training for pharmacy staff to ensure the highest-quality standards are met when giving advice about the self-management of pain.

The last proposal was a community-based solution called ‘pharmacy united’. Patients often treat themselves incorrectly and pharmacy could work to overcome this. A possible solution was identified through the development of a toolkit containing survey findings and personalised feedback for pharmacists to use during a ‘kick the pain week’ in the community.

The toolkit would encourage pharmacies to work with their local sports clubs to elevate pharmacies’ position within the community and educate people on pain management.