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Psychological first aid training available to pharmacy teams to help patients during the pandemic

mental health

By Isabel Shaw

15 Jun 2020

Pharmacy teams in England are able to access free psychological first aid training to help them support patients who have suffered mental health difficulties because of the coronavirus pandemic, Minister for Mental Health, Nadine Dorries has announced.

The free online educational tool, created by Public Health England (PHE), is available to pharmacy teams and other frontline staff and volunteers in England from today (15 June).

The course aims to equip frontline responders with the necessary skills and confidence to recognise and help those who have been psychologically affected as a result of Covid-19, including issues such as job worries, bereavement or social isolation.

Last month, community pharmacists in England told the Pharmacist they had seen an increase in patients showing new or exacerbated mental health issues since the lockdown began in March, confirming fears that a surge in mental health issues is ‘imminent’.

With many GP surgeries and mental health support services maintaining a closed-door policy during lockdown, more people suffering from mental health issues have started to turn to pharmacists for help.

However, some pharmacists said they felt ill-prepared to help patients with mental health issues.

Mike Hewitson, a superintendent pharmacist at Beaminster Pharmacy in Dorset, said that he did not believe that pharmacy was ‘well enough equipped’ to deal with the influx of mental health cases.

Ade Williams, superintendent pharmacist at Bedminster Pharmacy in Bristol, said he believed that all pharmacy staff should be trained in mental health first aid and that pharmacies should be integrated into the mental health pathway so that the sector can provide ‘better support to patients’.

Last month, the Royal College Of Psychiatrists forecasted a ‘tsunami’ in mental health illness after lockdown, following a 45% dip in the number of routine psychiatry appointments and a 43% increase in urgent and emergency cases.

The Pharmacist spoke with consultant psychiatrist at King’s College London, Professor Neil Greenberg, who offered some advice to pharmacy teams on how to help people who come into the pharmacy with mental health difficulties.

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