Peter Gibson, PR Consultant to Antibiotic Research UK, interviews Arlene Brailey (Patient Support) to learn more about the Antibiotic Research UK Patient Support Programme and how it can contribute to the effort behind COVID-19.
When did the Antibiotic Research UK Patient Support Programme start?
The recognition of the unmet support need for patients suffering with long term drug-resistant infections was brought to the attention of the Antibiotic Research UK Education Committee. They put a proposal forward for an initial pilot in 2018 and I was fortunate to be the successful candidate for the position of Patient Support Officer following the interview process. I started in my position in February 2019 and shared my plans for developing the service with the Education Committee who were very supportive.
What made you want to join Antibiotic Research UK?
Antibiotic Research UK is a respected Medical Research charity. Their research into new treatments for drug-resistant infections is critical to the future of modern medicine and with their expertise in infection is well-equipped to provide information about bacterial infections, including those that are drug-resistant. I therefore felt as a pharmacist with experience in antibiotics and infection that there was a real need to support patients suffering from drug-resistant infections and this was the right charity for me to join.
How successful has the service been so far?
Like many new initiatives there was a lot of planning and development at the beginning and therefore it was sometime before I started to interact with patients. Once I started conversations with patients however, I was able to better understand their unmet needs and develop information which is now available on the Antibiotic Research UK website. We have also now posted a bank of case studies from patients who have been willing to share their stories about their experience of drug-resistant infections.
What are the greatest challenges in your role?
Even though I am a qualified pharmacist with many years of experience I cannot give personalised medical advice, which can be a challenge during interactions with patients, however I will always provide trustworthy information, validated by our team of internal experts and signpost patients in the right direction for advice.
Staffing the service 24/7 has also been a challenge e.g. when I am on holiday. We have been fortunate to recruit an infection control nurse to provide extra cover and further expand the service to an online community on Facebook.
What can the Antibiotic Research UK Patient Support Service offer during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Many patients suffering from chronic drug-resistant infections are very worried about the impact of COVID-19 on their health. For these patients we have a flexible approach to contacting us…… by email, text or telephone. Our helpline gives you direct access to telephone support and all enquiries are dealt with in the strictest confidence.
However, with our expertise in infection, we want to be here for all patients and their families, so we are setting up a service called “Ask ANTRUK” – an acronym for Antibiotic Research UK. This Q & A section may help to address any concerns people have by posting your question about COVID-19 . We have direct access to a panel of healthcare professionals and scientists to help answer their questions. For those on social media we will be posting a daily question and link to the answer on our website.
Why is it so important for Antibiotic Research UK to engage with the public during the COVID-19 pandemic?
There is already some evidence that COVID-19 may open the door to secondary bacterial infections which can be fatal if not treated with effective antibiotics. Antibiotic Research UK is well equipped to provide information about bacterial infections, including those that are drug-resistant.
There are also a lot of myths supported by fake information that the public are struggling with currently. Antibiotic Research UK is a respected Medical Research charity providing evidence- based information on COVID-19 that people can trust.
In addition, research into new treatments for drug-resistant infections is critical to the future of modern medicine to maintain treatments for infections that may lead to sepsis and to find treatments for new bacterial infections especially those associated with COVID-19.
We understand that these are difficult times for everyone, especially financially, however Antibiotic Research UK is entirely funded on donations, therefore any small donation or fundraising effort is much appreciated to support the continuation of our important research and valuable Patient Support Service.
Thank you Arlene for the information you have shared and good luck with the expansion of the Patient Support Programme.
You can donate directly to Antibiotic Research UK by going to: https://www.antibioticresearch.org.uk/support-us/donate/
You can visit our ”Lockdown Fundraising” ideas on the website: https://www.antibioticresearch.org.uk/lockdown-fundraising-ideas/