Pharmacy student brings light to vulnerable man’s life

Ruth Peterson | December 1, 2020

A Pharmacy Technician trained in a national diploma run by Bradford College has achieved recognition for supporting a vulnerable man to find medical help and a home.

The man, Mr R, was suffering ill health while living in a tent in a disused car park. He was receiving support from the NOAH Enterprise Welfare Centre, which supports vulnerable people in and around Luton, Bedfordshire.

Sue Jermy

Sadly, he collapsed, and had to go to hospital, where medics diagnosed a heart condition. Senior Pharmacy Technician and Bradford College student Sue Jermy said: “He was really poorly and nobody wanted to pick up responsibility for him.”

But in coordination with healthcare colleagues and the local authority, Sue and her colleague at Cambridgeshire Community Services NHS Trust, Leila Daniel, ensured he received medication as well as working with helping him to find a place to live.

Mr R’s story

She and Leila presented the story of the man, Mr R, to Sam Sherrington, the Head of Community Nursing for NHS England. She and Leila both received a ‘Shine a Light’ award from the Trust for their dedication to supporting the man.

Mr R had lived in the area for many years but was unable to read or speak English well. He also had difficulty understanding the medication labelling or how to administer it. He had not been registered with a GP so was unable to have the blood tests he needed. Neither could he obtain a repeat prescription for medication. Sue said: “It occurred to me that I needed to find out what was going on with him. Part of my studies at Bradford College was around safeguarding, and I needed to ensure we safeguarded this patient.”

Sue offers her support

Through her work with the homeless shelter run by NOAH, Sue found the patient was running low on essential medication. He was sadly unable to have the blood tests he needed. Sue added: “He also had no recourse to public funds so wasn’t able to access the help he needed.”

Sue took Mr R on as part of her own caseload. She soon followed up with colleagues and local authority social services to find out what help he needed.

The Trust safeguarding team ensured that he was registered with a GP practice. Mr R was an infrequent visitor to the homeless centre and at times it was difficult to track him down. Sue said: “Police took his tent away, which made it more difficult to find him.”

Finding a safe place to live

Ella’s Project, a group helping people who are unable to access public funding for support with housing and healthcare. This enabled Mr R to secure private rented accommodation. Having a place to call home reduced the risk to his health. This was crucial during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Kirsten Clarke, Sue’s colleague at Cambridgeshire Community Services NHS Trust, who nominated Sue and Leila for the Shine A Light Award, said: “This was a complex case with many difficulties in obtaining the support the gentleman required.”

“This case highlights the importance of professional curiosity. The outcome could have been very different if Sue had not identified the patient’s vulnerabilities.”

Sue: Healthcare should be for all

Being able to help others was the reason Sue began working for the NHS around 20 years ago.

Sue began her career as a dental nurse before making the switch to pharmacy. She has been working in NHS community services for 12 years. Sue said: “I joined the NHS because I believe in it. I think healthcare should be for all.”

“I find pharmacy really interesting. Patients ask me how the tablets they’re prescribed know where to go, and how they treat that part of your body. I find pharmacodynamics and pharmacokinetics fascinating.”

About the Diploma

Since September 2019 she has been studying for Bradford College’s BTEC Level 4 Professional Diploma in Pharmacy Clinical Services. It is the only BTEC programme in the UK, offering an academically recognised award in pharmacy clinical services for the Pharmacy Technician.

The course is taught to students all over the UK.

Sue said: “My manager had made a comment in passing: “You should have a look at a course they’re doing at Bradford College. It would be really good for your career.”

The BTEC Level 4 Professional Diploma in Pharmacy Clinical Services is a unique qualification, available to GPhC registered Pharmacy Technicians across the UK and Ireland. This professional development opportunity revolutionises the future of Pharmacy Technician CPD and provides key skills required as they move forward into more clinical roles.

As the role of the Pharmacy Technician evolves, the course offers an exciting and unique opportunity for continued professional development.

Sue: The course has given me added insight

Sue said: “I started as a mature student.

“Bradford College offered me a professional Diploma in pharmacy. With that you get a full understanding of all aspects of pharmacy. This includes biochemistry, pharmaceutical science and different medications. We develop an understanding of NHS policy and an in-depth knowledge of the five-year plans for the NHS.

“The course has given me an added insight. I believe this helped me to identify the support that this gentleman needed. It makes you think about your general practice, extend your knowledge and think about what else you can do to support others. If you’ve got any questions for your tutor, she’ll come back to you with marks, encouragement and feedback.

“My tutors Maryam and Shelley are so responsive. They set up chatrooms, WhatsApp groups. Students can talk to each other, even for just a catch up, to hear what projects other people are involved in. It’s amazing. I’m so glad I did it. They should be really proud of what they do.”

Working while studying

The course is taught online, providing a flexible, convenient and accessible way for Pharmacy Technicians to undertake the Diploma. It allows learners to take an active role in their own development and remain in their workplace whilst studying.

Sue said: “Primarily, my job is to visit patients at home and talk to them about medication. The other part of my job is my work with the homeless shelter. I feel very lucky to be involved with them.”

She continues to carry out wellness checks on the people supported there. She said: “If they’ve got any problems with medication they’ll talk to me.

“I’ve still got many years to give to the NHS and I want to do this with a sound knowledge.”

Maryam Saeed: Delightful to see progress

Pharmacy Development Course tutor Maryam Saeed said: “With Sue starting on the course back in September 2019, it is delightful to see how well she is and has progressed throughout the course. I can certainly see development within Sue’s Pharmacy clinical knowledge as well as her academic knowledge.

“When Sue told me about her success with her supporting the vulnerable man, it really put this course into perspective that anything is achievable. This was a very proud moment for Sue but also for our level 4 Pharmacy team at the College and felt this success certainly needed to be shared. I want to say a very well done to Sue for the commendable work- a real credit to her and the course!”

Shelley Mannion: Honoured to work alongside outstanding Pharmacy Technicians

Shelley Mannion, Pharmacy Professional Development Lead, Bradford College, said: “This is an inspirational story and a credit to Sue for all her hard work and dedication to the pharmacy profession. An example here of a Pharmacy Technician excelling themselves both professionally and personally.  Sue has been an outstanding student and her feedback about the course makes me beam with pride. I am honoured to work alongside outstanding Pharmacy Technicians, both the Level 4 course tutors and of course our amazing students. The students make this course what it is and without them and their input, successful developments of the course would simply not happen.  Pharmacy Technicians expanding their knowledge, skills, professional practice and most importantly, improving the lives of our patients is what we aim to achieve with this course and this is an excellent example of our aims becoming reality. Huge congratulations Sue, keep up the great work.”

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