For pharmacist Michael J Walsh the family home was located above his father's pharmacy in Warrenpoint, Northern Ireland. After graduating in 1995, he returned home to work in the family business and soon realised that the pharmacy would have to expand and enhance its role if it were to survive in the future.
He decided to focus on how the existing stop smoking service could be improved in terms of better time management, better communication with potential quitters and raising awareness. In particular, he realised that the initial stop smoking consultation could be very time consuming. 'To cover the important topics, the paperwork, and a carbon monoxide reading within the recommended 30-minute allocation can be a real struggle,' he says.
Instead of trying to cover everything in detail at this consultation, he devised a patient workshop which covered subjects such as the physical and mental aspects of addiction, weight gain, past failures, and the modes of action of NRT and Champix. 'I hired the local town hall for the event, and I was very pleased with the feedback I received from patients,' he says. Michael even produced a short video to explain to smokers why attending the town hall event is worthwhile. (Click here for video) http://youtu.be/-0eBoKAQwdg
Maintaining communication with patients is essential, especially in the early part of the programme, he says. 'Too many quitters fall off the wagon in the early stages, and if you wait until week four before contacting them, the momentum is lost. Worse still is, if they build up the courage to give it another go, only to have you refuse them until six months have passed before they can sign up again.
'I decided to tackle this problem three-fold. Firstly, I do a Monday morning ring around my recent quitters. I decided on Monday morning as most people find the weekend difficult. This is a surprisingly quick exercise, a short one question/one answer phone call "How are you getting on?" If they are still quit, "Great, I'll see you Wednesday," or if they are struggling "No problem, come in and see me, we'll get you back on track."'
Michael also launched a memorably named website (www.quitthefags.com), which he says acts as a signpost and explanation of the service, and bought an appointment scheduler programme, which he has set up to send clients a weekly text message reminding them of their appointment.
Judge Glyn McIntosh says: ‘Michael Walsh is the deserved overall winner. He identified the shortfalls in an already good service by improving time management, patient communication and implementing an innovative awareness programme.’Judge Dr Alex Bobak says Michael 'really stood out'. 'He ran a really high profile campaign with money out of his own pocket. The ring rounds and videos were a great idea and very well executed. It shows someone who has got great imagination and flair.'