"As part of my role, I receive phone calls from patients. They can range from people needing friendly reassurance, urgent advice and in some cases people who have reached a situation where they want to end their life. All calls leave a lasting impression, but some more than others.
I was on duty when I had a call from a distressed young patient. Immediately, being a mother as well as nurse, I reflected on how I would feel if it was my child. Caring is at the centre of everything I do and sometimes it can be difficult to remain detached from patients- especially when they are so young and in crisis.
I was told that the caller had developed a headache and went into a Poundland store to buy some paracetamol. They were met by staff who refused to sell a single packet but instead encouraged them to buy their multi-pack offer as they would be out of pocket if they didn’t –it also wouldn’t work for their stock levels!
What most people don’t realise is that paracetamol can leave lasting damage when taking more than the safe amount; anything from liver damage to extremes like liver failure and even death. Selling any drugs, let alone dangerous amounts to potentially vulnerable people, can have hugely detrimental effects.
It is this fact that I’m interested in challenging. I believe that if it was not for Poundland providing more than the required amount of tablets, I wouldn’t have received the call in the first place. And more importantly, the caller wouldn’t have had the means to end their life when they were at their lowest’
According to NHS guidelines, the largest pack of paracetamol a shop can sell over the counter is 16 tablets, with pharmacies able to sell 32. Furthermore, research has shown that limiting the number of tablets sold in packets has led to a 43 per cent reduction in the number of paracetamol poisoning-related deaths.
‘These facts speak for themselves – it’s a matter of life and death for people in their moment of crisis. So I contacted Poundland, with this information.
'The ultimate goal would be to altogether restrict the amount sold. I understand that this won’t be easy – but it’s certainly not going to stop me campaigning!’
Sarah is hoping with the backing of the Trust, along with MPs and fellow clinical experts, she can persuade Poundland to give customers the right to refuse multi-pack offers or, at a minimum, ensure that Poundland follows the same regulations that other high street retailers follow when selling paracetamol. This includes an automated message appearing on a screen prompting staff to check the age of the customer and restricting multiple packets being sold at once for reasons of safety.
Thankfully the caller did not overdose on this occasion, largely thanks to the incredible work that Sarah and her team do. But we can’t help but think, how many calls is it going to take before someone in crisis risks their life with a Poundland purchase?