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EDINBURGH


FROM CALDER PHARMACY IN EDINBURGH’S SOUTH-WESTERN SIDE, TO BARNTON PHARMACY IN THE MORE AFFLUENT NORTH WEST, COMMUNITY PHARMACISTS DEAL WITH HEALTH AND SOCIAL CARE ISSUES THAT VARY ACCORDING TO THEIR PATIENTS’ CIRCUMSTANCES. CHARLES SHANKS AND SALLY ARNISON GIVE SP AN INSIGHT INTO…


TWO TALES OF ONE CITY


As with any big city, Edinburgh is rich in diversity and steeped in history. Yet, for all of its diversity, one thing remains unwavering: the care and support that its community pharmacists have for their patients.


On the eponymous estate in the Sighthill/Gorgie ward, Calder Pharmacy is one of only two shops left standing in its block. A walk through the estate – and even a glance out of the pharmacy window – tells you everything you need to know about the area. Yet owner, Charles Shanks, believes that the pharmacy acts as almost a ‘hub’ for the local community – particularly since he subsumed the former Post Office into his pharmacy just over a year ago.


‘There’s no doubt that the area is beset by problems,’ he says. ‘This


14 - SCOTTISH PHARMACIST


ward has an unemployment rate that’s higher than the citywide level at 4.3 per cent, and has a higher percentage of people who have never worked (4.9 per cent compared to 3.2 per cent across Edinburgh).


‘In addition to the high levels of unemployment, there’s also a lot of drug dealing on the estate, and we probably have a higher rate of methadone dispensing per capita than many areas. Around a third of people in this area also have no qualifications. Put simply, taken across a range of indicators – no qualifications, teenagers not in full-time education, absence from school, unemployment, the drug issue – there’s no doubt that deprivation is higher in this area than across the city. I’d go so far as to say that this is one of the poorest areas in Edinburgh.’


It is perhaps a combination of the high-density housing and lack of opportunities that have made the drugs issue in the area so prevalent. Throughout the time that SP spent in the pharmacy, there was a steady stream of methadone patients calling in for their daily supply, which is dispensed at a screened-off section of the counter to provide some degree of privacy.


‘We are the only pharmacy for about a mile and a half,’ Charles continues, ‘and we have around 50-60 daily dose methadone patients, but the local Health Centre pharmacy, in which I am a partner, has between 250-300 instalment dispensing patients each day. The area that we service has quite a large catchment area, but the numbers are still going up, to the extent that a new health centre


is being opened at Wester Hailes to meet the demand.’


Despite the fact that Calder Pharmacy is based on a housing estate, the population is actually quite transient.


‘The fact that there is a larger-than- average addict population,’ says Charles, ‘means that they tend to fall out with each other and then one or more of them has to move on. Also, because they’re involved in drugs, people will very often be threatened and will therefore have to move on.


‘We see violence on a regular basis at the pharmacy. Only recently, for example, a patient came in for his methadone. As he left the pharmacy, a group, who were sitting outside, attacked him, smacking his head off the stones. I ran out and it was clear that his skull was cracked, so I placed him in a position that ensured he could breathe until the emergency services arrived. Sometimes I don’t know whether I’m a pharmacist or a caregiver, but whatever I am, that is the role that is required here, so it’s the one I have to fulfil.’


What does Charles see as the answer to the drugs issue in areas such as this?


‘I really hold out little hope for many of the people on this estate,’ he says. ‘People are talking about a special unit


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