Assistance from Pharmacist Support can come in many different ways to suit the needs of the individual. The following brief review of the work of the charity highlights the many ways in which we have responded to the needs of pharmacists, their dependants and pharmacy students.
What is most striking about the work of Pharmacist Support is that it provides assistance at every stage of life and in response to a huge range of problems. Illness, stress, bereavement and unemployment can affect all of us at some stage in our life.
Often, the help that the charity provides can be small in financial terms. A widow of a pharmacist with two small children approached us for assistance with benefits advice. During a conversation with our specialist adviser it transpired that a large item of expenditure went on fuel for her car in order to take her laundry for washing twice a week - her machine was broken and she could not afford to replace it. A small grant from the charity to pay for a new washing machine reduced her petrol bill significantly. This, coupled with timely advice about benefit entitlement, resulted in a much-improved situation for the individual concerned.
Often requests for assistance require an urgent and immediate response. The charity tries to ensure that assistance is provided when it is needed and is responsive and flexible. A housing association in a city in the north of England contacted us when they realised that a man they were about to evict from one of their houses was an ex-pharmacist. The man, who was being evicted because the council wanted to demolish the property, did not have security of tenure. He also suffered from depression and was an alcoholic (although in recovery for some years). Despite the man’s circumstances, the council would not consider him to be a priority for rehousing and he was therefore facing homelessness and the prospect of sleeping rough (in the middle of winter). Pharmacist Support liaised with the housing association and provided him with the deposit to rent a new flat and to pay for removal expenses. He is now settled in his new accommodation. In his own words, the help that the charity provided was a ‘lifeline’. Their ability to respond quickly helped him through the ordeal and helped to ensure that he did not revert to alcohol during this extremely stressful period.
Whenever possible, Pharmacist Support will aim to provide assistance that helps the person get through a difficult patch and resolve their problems. Last year the charity provided financial assistance to pay for car repairs for a pharmacist who was trying to get back to work after a long period of illness. The use of a car was vital if she was going to find work as a locum in the rural area in which she lived. The charity also purchased a computer for a pharmacist who had left the profession following a period of mental illness. The computer helped his return to education and improved his employment prospects.
Pharmacist Support aims to ensure that the help it provides empowers the individual and helps them to take the necessary steps to improve their lives. The Health Support Programme (HSP) is one service provided by the charity. It provides intensive support and ongoing help to pharmacists who have drug or alcohol addiction problems. It costs £150,000 to train a pharmacist but this money can be completely wasted when a pharmacist with drug or alcohol problems does not receive the necessary treatment and is lost to the profession. When patients receive the correct treatment, they have a very high success rate. The likely outcome in these cases is that the patient will be able to return to work following treatment and will continue to be productive. Financial assistance for treatment is provided only when the patient cannot meet these costs themselves. Even then the Charity will usually only provide part funding - this helps ensure that the patient takes responsibility for their own recovery.
Whilst Pharmacist Support often provides assistance to people who are experiencing a short or medium-term problem or crisis, on many occasions the beneficiary requires longer-term help and assistance. Many elderly and disabled beneficiaries receive assistance to pay for unexpected expenses that, when living on a low income, are impossible to budget for. A leaking roof, a replacement boiler and respite breaks are all ways in which the Charity has helped to improve a person’s circumstances and removes the pressure and stress of wondering ‘how am I going to cope?’. For many, just knowing that the charity is there to assist them, makes life a little easier.
Advice and support are often as important as financial assistance to someone in times of need. The charity ensures that people are provided with the information that they need to solve their problems or, where appropriate, are signposted to an area of specialist help.
Often, having someone who will listen to your problem can make all the difference. The Listening Friends service is an independent telephone helpline where pharmacists can speak to fellow pharmacist volunteers about specific issues and problems. Issues major on professional problems including workplace pressure, employment issues and bullying as well as stress caused by ill heath, financial worries, bereavement or exams.