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Beware of cancer symptoms: NNFY scheme now available to all UK pharmacies

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As part of the programme, pharmacy teams are trained to spot potential early cancer symptoms in patients who visit their pharmacy 

Following the successful launch across the Alphega pharmacy network, Alliance Healthcare has decided to expand the ‘Not Normal for You?’ (NNFY) scheme to all pharmacies across the UK.

The scheme, which enables pharmacists to refer patients showing potential cancer symptoms to their GPs, has helped reveal several cases of cancer since it was rolled out in October 2023.

More than 1,000 Alphega pharmacies participated in the initial launch, with Jackie Lewis, owner of Lewis Pharmacy in Exmouth, leading the way.

Lewis explained that the NNFY scheme provides pharmacists and their staff with resources and training to detect cancer early in patients who visit their pharmacy.

After receiving £10,000 in funding from the National Pharmacy Association’s (NPA’s) Health Education Forum, Lewis first introduced the scheme to 10 pharmacies throughout East Devon. An additional grant from Bristol Myers Squibb supported in material development, upscale, and successful roll out of the project.

During the pilot phase, a patient who repeatedly purchased cough medicine in one pharmacy was referred to his GP, leading to a diagnosis of lung cancer. Six months later, the patient’s wife visited the pharmacy to thank the pharmacist as her husband was now in remission due to the early referral. The pilot also identified several cases of skin cancer.

“The timely detection of cancer is incredibly important,” Lewis said, encouraging pharmacies across the UK to participate in the scheme.

“By equipping frontline healthcare providers with the tools to recognise potential symptoms, lives can be saved through early treatment,” she added.

Jackie has developed a free online training programme called: ‘Let’s communicate cancer’ designed to educate pharmacy teams about cancer symptoms using videos and quizzes. The resource is now available on both the British Oncology Pharmacy Association and the NPA’s websites.

Dr Mandeep Mudhar, head of Alphega Pharmacy UK, highlighted that the NNFY scheme has been positively received by its members, with a growing level of engagement.

“We will continue to encourage our members and pharmacies to offer this service to their patients as part of our ambition to create healthier futures for all,”  he said.

According to Alliance Healthcare, participating pharmacies would be provided with marketing materials, such as leaflets and referral cards, free-of-charge, as part of their standard delivery.

Training would be provided to all pharmacy staff, from counter assistants to pharmacists, to enable them to spot ‘red flag’ symptoms and behaviour indicative of certain cancers.

Upon identifying symptoms, a pharmacist can discuss the issue with the individual and advise them to consult their GP if deemed necessary.

Symptoms are listed on the back of an eye-catching ‘Not Normal for You?’ orange referral card, which can be provided to a GP for confirmation.  While this card doesn’t enable a faster GP visit, it serves as symptom validation, potentially streamlining the referral process for doctors.

 

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