Objective To describe and evaluate the training and support provided to the first cohort of community pharmacists to supply progestogen-only emergency contraception (POEC) under a Patient Group Direction (PGD) in Lambeth, Southwark and Lewisham, London.
Design The study comprised (a) a systematic analysis of written and oral data from pharmacists before and during training, and at 5 and 13-14 months after launch; (b) analysis of telephone calls to clinical support and (c) analysis of written pharmacy records.
Subjects A total of 20/22 pharmacists in the first training cohort; 6/23 pharmacists who applied but were not accepted were also followed up.
Results A formal course with role-play was a successful training method, and the course also served as a team-building exercise. Subsequent interviews demonstrated that pharmacists had understood the concept of client confidentiality and gained confidence over time in the use of the PGD. The on-call consultants received 152 calls in the first 12 months of the scheme. Over 80% of the calls concerned clinical criteria (notably including 22% that were queries about oral contraceptives). Frequency ranged from one to eight calls per week with 28% made at weekends. In over half (60%) of the calls the pharmacist was subsequently able to make a supply. Queries over client management resulted in several changes in the protocol. The primary expressed concern for all pharmacists at all time points was how clients might 'misuse' or 'abuse' the service, and this remained a concern despite the fact that it also applies to other routes of supply of POEC. However, the PGD cohort was more positive on local benefits than pharmacists who were not selected.
Conclusions Training and support have enabled this often-underused group of professionals to participate in an extended reproductive health service. Mobile phones are an essential support tool.
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