Community mental health: university leads on pilot scheme in Lincolnshire pharmacies

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A community mental health service led by researchers at the University of Lincoln, UK, has been successfully piloted in pharmacies across Lincolnshire.

Over a six-month period in 2023, the pilot offered in-person aid across selected Lincolnshire Co-op pharmacies to those experiencing suicidal thoughts and/or domestic abuse. The response scheme was conducted by a group of researchers from the Universities of Lincoln, Nottingham, York, and King’s College London.

Just as a lifeguard would provide a watchful eye over swimmers to prevent them from getting into difficulty, the Lifeguard Pharmacy service provided 37 trained professionals, referred to as “Lifeguards”, across eight pharmacies in Lincolnshire to appropriately signpost those who were in danger of harm from themselves or somebody else.

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Staff reported that after training, they felt better equipped to identify safeguarding issues with their regular customers, which they were previously unskilled in. The service has left a legacy of trained professionals working in community pharmacies, who are better equipped to identify and support those in crisis.

A help card which can be used to signal support is requiredA help card which can be used to signal support is required
A help card which can be used to signal support is required

Following completion of the pilot, discussions are underway to develop a commissioned offering via an integrated care service, as the project identified potential to use the service to support communities in a broader setting.

Josie Solomon, Professor in Human-centered Health at the University of Lincoln and Lifeguard project lead said: “We worked extensively with members of the public and with local services to create the service. People were extremely supportive and keen to help. The feedback from patients, pharmacy staff and the public has shown clear support for a quality assured service like Lifeguard Pharmacy.”

Jeff Law, Honorary Teaching Practitioner at the University of Lincoln and trained community pharmacist, commented: “This project has given some much-needed options and training to deal with some difficult situations that we encounter in the community. The support from the Lifeguard team has been fantastic and really helpful in supporting our staff assist some very vulnerable patients who otherwise may have been overlooked.”

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The University of Lincoln is now working with Community Pharmacy Lincolnshire, the Local Pharmaceutical Committee, with the hope of training additional “Lifeguards” in key locations and developing a sustainable service to be rolled out more widely in the county and beyond, offering a lifeline for community-based pharmacies and reducing health inequalities.

The research project, “Responding to people in danger: A feasibility study to co-develop a community pharmacy response service for domestic violence and suicidal ideation” was funded by the National Institute for Health and Care Research and received an award of £407,595.23.

The research group wrote an opinion piece about the service, published in The Pharmaceutical Journal:

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