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Pharmacy Training

Healthy Living Pharmacy Alcohol Awareness – FREE training

By January 21, 2020 January 29th, 2020 No Comments
Healthy Living Pharmacy Alcohol Awareness Training

Pharmacy Staff training on Alcohol Awareness and supporting Dry January

Getting your team to support customers during dry January or to promote your Healthy Living Pharmacy alcohol public health campaign is a great way for them to engage with customers.

But it’s hard to find the time to get all the information you need to train them. So, in this article we are going to cover all the key messages you need so your team can:

  • Understand the detrimental effects of alcohol on health
  • Prepare the pharmacy for the campaign with POS
  • Promote the campaign messages to customers and patients so they are aware of how else the pharmacy can help
  • Signpost customers to in-store resources such as leaflets

Alcohol facts

It is estimated that 20 people die every day as a result of their drinking, according to charity Alcohol Change UK

In fact, alcohol has links to more than 60 conditions, including liver disease, high blood pressure, depression and seven types of cancer. It is the biggest risk factor for death, ill-health and disability for people aged 15-49 in the UK. Cutting back on alcohol reduces the risk of developing these conditions.

NHS guidelines are to drink no more than 14 units per week, spread over three or more days, and with at least two days off.

Helping people reduce their alcohol consumption is, therefore, an important role for pharmacy. Plus it helps you meet the public health agenda and requirements under the Healthy Living Pharmacy framework.

To help people get motivated it is important to tell them about the many benefits of reducing alcohol, which will include improved health, a better quality of life and saving money. It may even help them lose weight.  

Top Tips for Dry January

The message from Change Alcohol is:

‘‘The most important thing to remember for Dry January is to enjoy it. It’s not meant to be a month of deprivation – it’s your chance to see how great life can be without booze so that if you want to cut down later it’s a doddle.’’ 

Here are some top tips you can share with customers:

  1. Remove all alcohol from the home – throw it out or hide it
  2. Plan what to do if alcohol is offered – for example, ask for alcohol-free alternatives, suggest everyone buys their own rather than buying rounds or learn to say no to a drink
  3. Reward yourself – if you see alcohol as a treat then swap it with another e.g. watching a box set or having a relaxing bath. At the end of the month use the money saved to treat yourself and remind yourself of this if you’re tempted to buy alcohol
  4. Look for support to help you through January – either from your non-drinking friends or by joining one on social media e.g. Dry January Facebook
  5. Fill the time with fun activities – instead of going to the pub try joining a club or learn something new like painting or dancing

Beyond Dry January

Dry January is a way of kick-starting good habits around alcohol consumption but it’s good for customers to know how to drink sensibly throughout the year. Such as:

  1. Ask for a small glass of wine (125ml) or half a pint of beer or cider
  2. Go for lower strength wine and beer – ask the bar staff
  3. Water your alcohol down with fizzy water e.g.  a wine spritzer or lager shandy
  4. Order a glass of water to drink alongside your alcoholic drink – it waters it down and also slows down your drinking
  5. Ask for single spirits rather than doubles
  6. Avoid rounds as you’ll be going at the pace of the fastest drinker
  7. Avoid temptation by not having a drink at home; replace with soft drinks (but watch out for sugary drinks) or low alcohol alternatives
  8. Drink with food – this slows the absorption of alcohol reducing the effects of the alcohol

Involving the whole Team

Every team member has a role to play in being proactive and making the campaign a success.

Counter Staff

The counter staff are the first point of contact for customers and so play a vital role in getting the message out. However, all staff will serve at the counter at some point in the day so the following roles also apply to pharmacists and dispensary staff.

Roles may include:

  • Displaying and maintaining campaign materials
  • Handing out flyers about the campaign
  • Using brief interventions to bring up the topic of alcohol 
  • Using OTC purchases to highlight how else the pharmacy can help. For example, mentioning Dry January and the Healthy Living Pharmacy alcohol awareness campaign to customers buying (or asking advice about) hangover products. Also for medicines where alcohol should be avoided (e.g. antihistamines) and using that as a prompt to discuss alcohol.
  • Educating customers on safe alcohol intake – maximum 14 units per week spread out with alcohol-free days; what constitutes a measure of alcohol; avoiding drinking in pregnancy; recognising and dealing with under-age drinking
  • Offering personalised advice to someone wanting to cut down – including completing an online self-assessment 
  • Getting the customer to spread the word about alcohol to friends and family and to signpost them back to the pharmacy for help
  • Directing customers to resources, apps and local charities
  • Consider using unit measure cups and ask customers to pour a unit to help them learn what constitutes one unit
  • Use props such as beer or drunk goggles to simulate the effects of drinking
  • Refer those with more serious alcohol problems to the pharmacist so they can direct them to local health services. Alcohol has links to unresolved mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety. And such mental health problems can lead to misuse and addiction.

In the past, some pharmacies were commissioned locally to offer a dedicated alcohol awareness consultation. Such a service may involve assessing a customer’s alcohol consumption and the relative risk to their health. The outlining the benefits of reducing alcohol consumption and referring them to local services where appropriate.

Dispensary staff

For dispensary staff, activities may include:

  • Identifying patients with prescriptions or conditions where alcohol is contraindicated. Or advise caution e.g. diabetes type 2, warfarin, antidepressants
  • Discussing alcohol in MUR and NMS
  • Putting Dry January flyers in all prescription bags
  • Adding Dry January banners to the pharmacy’s website and email signature
  • Promoting the pharmacy team’s expertise outside the pharmacy e.g. presentations to local groups and charities
  • For people who are misusing alcohol, directing them to local alcohol support services

The pharmacy campaign

Public Health England has launched an alcohol campaign for January 2020. PSNC and NHS England have agreed that these will count as two of community pharmacy’s six public health campaigns for the year, so participation in the campaign by displaying the materials is mandatory. All members of the pharmacy team need to be briefed about this campaign and how the pharmacy is getting involved.

This campaign falls within Dry January. Dry January is traditionally when people might give up alcohol. Probably after their excessive drinking in the festive celebrations in December.

Healthy Living Pharmacy alcohol campaign resources

The Healthy Living Pharmacy alcohol campaign resources have been delivered to all pharmacies. The campaign runs from the first day the pharmacy is open in January to the 31st. 

The campaign materials that must be displayed as part of the public health campaign are Dry January calendars (see Resources later). These calendars allow patients to tick off their dry days. They also provide information on the benefits of a month off alcohol. Pharmacies are encouraged (but not required) to display posters and to use digital resources from Alcohol Change UK e.g. on social media, email, screens.

If a pharmacy has not received their calendars by the first day their pharmacy opens for business in 2020 they should email england.communitypharmacy@nhs.net stating the pharmacy name, F-code, address and name of the campaign they have not received materials for.

Set up

The campaign starts on January 1st and will run for the month and will be supported by a marketing campaign.

  • Look out for campaign materials – lookout for announcements from your local authority and from your NHS and pharmacy networks (e.g. LPC) 
  • Download additional materials – there are additional free resources available to order or download from Public Health England and from Alcohol Change UK. This sometimes includes digital screens and social media assets. Look for the Resources at the end of this course.
  • Display the materials – support this campaign by displaying the resources in public areas, such as posters in the window, leaflets on the counter, dispensary reception and shop floor or health zone.
  • Tell your customers about it – use ‘brief interventions’ to strike up a conversation about the alcohol campaign.

Dry January is an annual movement that encourages the public to give up alcohol for the month of January. It is run by the charity Alcohol Change UK which is also behind Alcohol Awareness Week that usually falls in November.

However, the Healthy Living Pharmacy Alcohol public health campaign runs all year.

Even taking a month off from alcohol can have a positive affect. Research conducted by the Royal Free Hospital and published in the British Medical Journal in 2018 found several health benefits. The results showed lower blood pressure and cholesterol plus a reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes and certain cancers. 

Similarly to Stoptober, being alcohol-free for 31 days shows people that they can still have fun, relax and socialise without drinking. This can help them change their habits for the long term. Research has also shown that people who took part in Dry January are still drinking less even six months later.

Resources and tools available

To encourage people to take part in the charity has the following tools which you can direct customers to:

  • Sign up for advice and tips
  • Free app to help people track their alcohol-free month including units, calories and money saved and gives daily motivation tips.
  • Dry January blog for tips and tricks for a dry month.
  • Buy Try Dry: The Official Guide to a Month Off Booze. This guide is to help people try dry year-round, whenever suits them. The guide is full of tips, tricks, advice, stories and more. So plenty to help them get the most out of their break from alcohol.

Additional resources can be accessed from the Alcohol Change UK website.


Mediapharm provides free training for pharmacy staff on a wide range topics. You can access more free training – just like the course above – by signing-up using the button below:

This course content was taken from MediaPharm’s Healthy Living Pharmacy Alcohol Awareness and Dry January training course. The full course includes:

  • Videos for convenient learning
  • Training exercises
  • Access to campaign display materials
  • Staff training tracking
  • Certification

The full course is available for free on Mediapharm’s unique pharmacy training platform. Or you can buy the course for full access to the above content below:


This post was created on behalf of MediaPharm by Nicola Hasted from Pharmacy Mentor