COVID-19 hospital support – Andrew Jenkins
Dr Andy Jenkins (PhD, MRPharmS)
Medical and Scientific Liaison Manager, Tillotts Pharma UK
In January 2021, the UK entered its third COVID-19 national lockdown. As with the first lockdown in March 2020 there was a clear indication that the hospitals were beginning to become overwhelmed and the Government’s message was clear; ‘stay home, save lives, protect the NHS’.
Having already helped as a hospital pharmacist in the purpose built COVID-19 Nightingale Hospital North West (Manchester) during the first wave (from when it opened in April 2020 until when it shut in July 2020) I felt well placed to help again during this next wave.
Following a conversation with the Deputy Chief Pharmacist of Manchester Foundation Trust I was once again asked if I could help provide hospital pharmacist support, this time within the Central Manchester Hospital. With the need for help within the NHS being clear, Jeremy (Tillotts Pharma UK Managing Director), Mat (Tillotts Pharma UK Medical and Regulatory Affairs Manager) and myself quickly decided that I would offer a day a week to help support the NHS during this extremely tough time.
Such was the demand within the hospitals I was asked if I could help in a number of different areas including supporting the supply and administration of vaccinations, aiding community care and helping on non-COVID wards. However, it was ultimately decided that the experiences and skills I had developed during the Nightingale Hospital would make me best placed on the COVID positive hospital wards.
My role on these wards, and as a hospital pharmacist in general, is to assess the patients’ medications and ensure they are taking the right medications for them – taking into account a variety of aspects such as their condition, blood results, previous medications, allergies, effectiveness, etc. This role spans the whole of the patient’s stay within the hospital; from the initial medication assessment from when they arrive, management of all medications during admission, and preparation and final sign off of discharge prescriptions.
Whilst these roles and responsibilities do not specifically differ on COVID wards compared to non-COVID wards, the environment was, and still is, expectedly different. Firstly, although all staff within the hospital must wear masks, there was a requirement that I wear additional PPE including apron, mask and gloves when entering COVID patient bays. Additionally, as the pressure was significantly heightened due to increased patient numbers and decreased levels of staff (because of COVID illness and excessive need) the hospital was on the highest ‘threat level’. This meant that pharmacists were instructed to focus on the most ‘at risk’ patients. There was also a clear need to increase capacity, therefore there was a drive to discharge patients as efficiently and safely as possible. Additionally, as the landscape of COVID care was ever changing, it was clearly important to keep up-to-date on the current COVID guidance and treatment protocols. This included whether patients were enrolled on clinical trials such as the ‘recovery trial’ – a national clinical trial which aims to identify treatments that may be beneficial for people hospitalised with suspected or confirmed COVID-19.
Aside from these specific nuisances in care, the thing that struck me most every time I entered each COVID ward was the unfaltering dedication and care from all of the staff. There is a clear risk working on COVID wards, however this never altered the cheerful caring nature of the healthcare professionals and staff throughout, something which was inspiring to see.