Pharmacists Must be Aware of Self- Harm Signs in Patients


In new draft guidance entitled ‘Self-harm: assessment, management and preventing recurrence’ released on the 18th of January, NICE set out that every healthcare professional needs to be looking at the likelihood of self-harm when talking to their patients. In the draft this is categorised as “intentional self-poisoning or injury.”

Community pharmacy employees, in charge of the supply, dispersion, and sale of medications, “should be aware of warning signs relating to self-harm.” This can range from purchasing large quantities of OTC (over the counter) medication to individuals who may already be able to obtain high quantities.

“Community pharmacy employees should be aware of warning signs relating to self-harm“

“The committee agreed that when pharmacy staff are aware of warning signs and when healthcare professionals are prepared to use consultations to discuss self-harm, the opportunities for people to self-poison or overdose are reduced”

It has also been noted by NICE that those who provide healthcare treatment and advice should observe the toxicity of treatments when prescribing for individuals with a history of self-harm and those who may still be at risk. “This would allow for staff to amend any prescriptions as appropriate to reduce the risk of future self-poisoning.”

Self-harm statistics are often not accessible or extremely accurate, however, the figures that are available demonstrate a rise in hospitalisation for self-harm in young women of almost 40% between 2012/2013 and 2019/2020. The data for younger men indicated that the hospitalisation rate had stayed at similar level.

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