The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the health inequalities that exist in England. Covid has undoubtedly exposed many of the elements of health inequalities experienced by patients in England.
Language skills, in particular not speaking English at all or not having English as a first language, can be a key barrier to accessing healthcare and, importantly, to taking medicines well. The impact of not understanding medicines instructions is clear, not only in purely health terms but also in economic terms due to opportunities lost, poorer health outcomes and a dissatisfactory experience of healthcare for patients. During the pandemic, pharmacy teams have done much to try to support patients and their carers with language barriers.
The impact of poor language skills is significant but can be addressed.
Written Medicine is a tool which supports medication labelling in languages other than English. In 2021 Wessex AHSN hosted a round table discussion to explore how the tool could be more widely deployed within pharmacy teams to ensure patients understand their medicines, and to support compliance with the General Pharmaceutical Council standards around patient-centred care and effective communication. This round table event brought together pharmacy professionals, from all sectors, to discuss the issues that Covid has exposed. The event focussed on how language barriers in relation to medicines could be resolved and, in part, help address the health inequalities that are established when a patient does not have English as their first language, or where reading medication instructions is problematic.
The report of the round table is available here.