Top tips for pharmacy to support people with sight loss in managing their medicines

Nina Barnett, Consultant Pharmacist, Medicines Use and Safety (SPS)Published

Guidance for pharmacy staff about what a person with sight loss might need from the pharmacy team to support them in using their medicines

Pharmacy environment

Think about the environment of the pharmacy and how you can make it easier for people with sight loss, for example:

  • consider bright colour contrasted lines on the floor and colour-contrasted guide rails to help navigate to the Pharmacy counter and consultation room
  • ensure no chairs or other obstacles are blocking the way
  • position signs on doorways and at the Pharmacy counters (for example ‘IN’ and ‘OUT’ hatches) at eye level to enable close-up viewing

Guide dogs

Do not play with the dog without asking permission from the owner first; they are a working dog.

Communication

It is important that you and your pharmacy team ask people with sight loss about their preferences and communicate with them in the way that is easiest for them.

Consider the following points:

  • a person with sight loss may not recognise your uniform or badge so it can be helpful to state who you are and what you will be doing
  • when taking in a prescription, tell the person their prescription number
  • ask if they prefer to have their name/number called out rather than reading a visual display
  • allow extra time for the person to respond to their call when your prescription is ready
  • always speak directly to the person with sight loss directly, unless they tell you they prefer otherwise (for example, a carer).

Giving information

Accessing information about medicines can be challenging for people with sight loss and while it is not always possible to have all options immediately available to support people with sight loss, the following tips are generally applicable:

  • ask the person with sight loss how it would be easiest for them to access information about medicines
  • proactively consider what you can do in your pharmacy to make information more accessible, for example large print labels, braille, leaflets, screen readers
  • make a record of their personalised requirements on the patient record system.

Dispensing

The following options can be implemented, following agreement with the person with sight loss, to support them in managing their medicines, and are generally available in most pharmacies:

  • printing the dispensing label in large font
  • sending the wording of the dispensing label or additional information by email to allow screen reading
  • consider providing a personalised dosing schedule chart in an accessible format

Differentiating containers

Support patients with sight loss in identifying different medicines or specific medicines, such as those with special storage conditions or short expiry:

  • mark the medication container with a large sign or colour
  • add a dispensing flag to identify fridge storage requirements
  • use different coloured highlighter pens to differentiate the different types of medicines
  • use two rubber bands tied around the medicines to be taken take twice a day, or a long rubber band with three knots in it could be tied around the medicines to be taken three times a day
  • using paper clips, dispensing flags, adhesive tape ‘flags’, ribbons, string, different coloured/textured stickers.

Supporting self-administration

Ask the person with sight loss whether they would like any of the following, where appropriate:

  • a non-child resistant cap for medicines container
  • tablets needing to be halved, if appropriate
  • reconstitution of medicines if required (where normally supplied for reconstitution at home)
  • if reconstituting medicines at home, ask how the person would find it easiest to identify, for example with coloured pen, a dispensing flag, etc.
  • offer of medication compliance aids for example, easy grip bottle openers, aids for eye drops and inhalers, with or without braille.

Patient Information Leaflets (PIL):

A service to support people with sight loss is provided by X-PIL, which ensures that updated PILs are accessible to all people, including those with sight loss.

There is a telephone number where people can listen to and/or request patient information leaflets (PILs):

  • in large/clear print
  • in Braille
  • on audio CD

This service is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and the caller will need to know the following information:

  • the name of the medicine
  • the medicine’s product code number

Full information and contact details are available at https://www.medicines.org.uk/emc/xpil

Further Information

Useful resources available to help you provide services to patients with sight loss.

NHS England

NHS Accessible Information Standard covers NHS related pharmacy work and ensures disabled people receive easily accessible information and support, and provides a telephone contact point for patients and members of the public with queries.

Health professionals with queries can email england.nhs.participation@nhs.net

RNIB

Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) can be contacted for general advice and support for those providing services to someone who is blind or partially sighted, if you have sight loss yourself, or know someone who is.

Moorfields Eye Hospital

The pharmacy team at Moorfields Eye Hospital have created an initiative to promote and encourage good eye drop compliance and provide support to patients, carers and staff regarding best techniques for administering eye drops.

Find out more and watch the Know Your Drops video at www.moorfields.nhs.uk/knowyourdrops