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Raising the profile of cancer prevention

Let’s Communicate Cancer is an e-learning programme of bite-sized videos, animations, quizzes and slide shows designed to give the pharmacy teams confidence and knowledge to help cancer patients from early diagnosis through treatment and beyond.

The course, which is hosted on the website of the British Oncology Pharmacy Association website, came about after a presentation Jackie gave at a European meeting of oncology pharmacists about her earlier piece of work, Not Normal for You? “People from Pfizer in the audience thought I’d demonstrated a clear need for training in community pharmacy,” Jackie says. “They left me to do the work – Pfizer wants to be acknowledged for supplying a grant for educational goods and services. It’s free, accessible, video-based learning for the whole community pharmacy team. That was my remit and I’ve achieved all of those things.” 

The course covers red flag symptoms that anyone in a community pharmacy might spot. Cancer scientist Dr Elaine Vickers explains cancer from the basics right through to immunotherapy, while the last Powerpoint module covers how people can be supported in the pharmacy. 

For Jackie, the programme is the latest project in a career in which her interest in cancer has been a constant theme. She trained at the Royal Free, completed a PhD in cancer targeting at De Montfort University before working in formulation at Boots and RP Scherer. With chemist husband Martyn, she bought her Exmouth pharmacy 20 years ago. She is currently co-chair of the British Oncology Pharmacy Association’s community pharmacy subcommittee. “I’ve always kept an interest in cancer and always been thinking about how I can help my cancer patients,” says Jackie. “But it takes a long time to make an impact.” 

Jackie’s earlier Not Normal for You? programme was funded by a grant from the Health Education Foundation and the NPA. “I’d put out feelers locally and then nationally to see how I could help cancer patients in community pharmacy.

Local Macmillan GP Jane Aitken got in touch; she was really keen to see how pharmacy could help with early diagnosis along the cancer pathway. Working with Cancer Research UK, Macmillan, local GPs and the Cancer Alliance, we decided to look at the very start of the pathway as the next step. 

“The question was how community pharmacy could help with early diagnosis of cancer. Jane and I designed the training materials. I designed the service to be really simple and aimed at the whole pharmacy team because you don’t see the pharmacist when you walk through the door. My e-learning is unique because I am always looking at the whole team.”

Jackie worked with 10 pharmacies in East Devon in a service project which ran for six months. “I trained the counter staff primarily, with pharmacists on back up,” she says. “They were absolutely amazing. We had cases of cancer anecdotally diagnosed from our work; participants even waived their project fees and asked me to send them to the charity where we all met for the wrap up meeting last January.”

The question was how community pharmacy could help with early diagnosis of cancer

The South West Academic Health and Science Network evaluated the results – 63 per cent of service users given a referral card went on to visit their GP. “It’s now a case of getting it out there, but no one is really taking it up,” Jackie says. “I’ve got people trained in 10 pharmacies, but beyond that, it hasn’t progressed. Jane and I haven’t put any intellectual property on it, so someone could take it and run with it.”

Jackie says that together with the e-learning, Not Normal for You? represents a service package that should be of interest to commissioners. “We know that early diagnosis has been missed during the pandemic,” she says. “I’ve got people coming to me left, right and centre as they’re not going to GP surgeries asking me to look at their lumps and moles, etc, so we are picking up more because of the pandemic. The package is very simple; interested people should get in touch with me.”

Jackie and her team won the Innovation Award in the Independent Pharmacy Awards 2020, run in association with Independent Community Pharmacist.

Accessing the programme

To access the Let’s Communicate Cancer programme, go to www.bopa.org.uk and click on the logo or access via the Courses section. You must be a member to access, but BOPA has a free membership category that acts as an entry point for interested health professionals. Anyone wanting further details of Not Normal for You? should contact the editor (rob.darracott@1530.com), and we will forward your correspondence to Jackie. 




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