Pharmacists trained to help patients spot signs of cancer

PUBLISHED: 06:00 18 June 2018

Talk Cancer scheme Photo: Mark Hewlett

Talk Cancer scheme Photo: Mark Hewlett

© 2013 Mark Hewlett

Pharmacists are being trained to help spot the signs of cancer in a bid to ensure those who fear they have the deadly illness can get support faster.

More than 80 pharmacy professionals from Norwich, Great Yarmouth and King’s Lynn have joined a Talk Cancer scheme, where they will be trained by a specialist team from Cancer Research UK about how to spot symptoms and talk to patients about the next steps.

After a successful pilot scheme in the Great Yarmouth area, it is now being rolled out across the East of England - with the hope that pharmacists will play a vital role in helping people, as well as relieving pressure on busy GPs.

In particular, pharmacists will be trained to identify regular customers who treat themselves rather than seeing their GP.

Alex Stewart, chief executive for Healthwatch Norfolk, said: “We would not disagree that GPs are over-stretched. Healthwatch welcome this scheme as pharmacists are more likely to see a patient than a GP.

“They are clever in noticing people who repeatedly buy things and can help people by spotting the early signs.”

Donna Reeve, Cancer Research UK east facilitator manager, said: “Whether giving advice about stop smoking services, buying sunscreen or talking to someone with symptom concerns, Talk Cancer improves pharmacists’ knowledge to make the most out conversations and nudge them in the right direction.”

Tony Dean, chief officer for Norfolk Local Pharmaceutical Committee, said: “On average a person visits a community pharmacy 14 times a year, so it’s clear how important it is to have pharmacy staff more knowledgeable and comfortable about discussing cancer.

“We are working to ensure that this is made available to all pharmacies.”

Sally Ross-Benham, head of primary care with NHS North Norfolk and NHS South Norfolk Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) - which are responsible for buying healthcare services in the area - said: “Pharmacies are very much regarded as another resource on the front line and it is good to see the development of skills around this vital area of work.”

Talk Cancer is part of a wider project involving more than 5,700 GP practices and health professionals across the UK to drive early improvements in the diagnosis and prevention of cancer.

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