Why I teamed up with a barber and a Women's Aid refuge

"I look at the outcomes that we hope to achieve right from the planning stage"
"I look at the outcomes that we hope to achieve right from the planning stage"
Picking some unusual collaborators made pharmacist Roisin Breen one of C+D's 'Best of the Best'

To celebrate the 10th anniversary of the C+D Awards, we have created a special category for 2017 – and are giving you the chance to pick the winner. Over the coming weeks, we’ll be looking back at each of the past recipients of the coveted Community Pharmacist of the Year trophy. Readers will then be given the chance to vote for their favourite entry, with the winner announced at the C+D Awards ceremony at Celtic Manor in Wales on July 12.

This week it's the turn of Roisin Breen, who scooped the award in 2014.

What made her a winner?

Health inequalities in Omagh inspired Ms Breen’s successful campaigns in Bradley's Pharmacy. But she didn’t simply pick topics she was interested in – she studied health statistics as part of a master’s degree in pharmacy public health services, then used her number-crunching skills to target areas of particular need in the most efficient way.

Her men’s health drive was prompted by looking at statistics for the local area. She then researched how men respond to advertising, and tailored the week-long health check campaign accordingly. She even recruited a local barber to become a champion for the scheme, who referred customers to have blood pressure and other checks.

And it wasn’t only men that benefited from her health drive. She instigated a project with the local Women’s Aid refuge, where a member of staff delivered healthy living messages alongside morale-boosting makeover sessions.

Ms Breen's top tip

Keep meticulous records of all pharmacy services, to prove their value. "I look at the outcomes that we hope to achieve right from the planning stage,” Ms Breen revealed a year after her C+D Award win. “I would keep a record of the number of interventions, as well as referrals to GPs or other agencies. Even if we have a fantastic intervention, if we don't have the evidence to back up our outcomes then we can't add anything to the evidence base.”

What’s she up to now?

Ms Breen still works at Bradley’s Pharmacy, but now spends one day a week at nearby Strule Medical Practice. She began the project as a “short-term” measure to carry out medication reviews, but says her work there “snowballed”.

“They saw the benefit and I really enjoyed it, so it has been continuing,” she says. The joint working has “strengthened links” with the practice’s GPs, she explains. “We have a better understanding of their work and they have a better understanding of ours.”

That understanding is likely to increase, as Ms Breen recently completed her independent prescribing course. “It should be invaluable in my role at the practice. I will be able to make – rather than just recommend – changes.”

The course was “quite intense work, but very different”. “I really enjoyed the clinical aspect of it,” she says. “There was a lot of patient examination... I think it’s made me a better pharmacist. I can deal with things that I couldn’t deal with before.“

If that wasn’t enough, Ms Breen is now working on the local health trust’s drug and alcohol scheme, leading on the misuse of prescription drugs.

Read our profile of C+D's 'Best of the Best' 2009 award-winner Michael Maguire here

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