Pharmacy is increasingly seen as the first port of call for healthcare and, thanks to PHARMACY IN FOCUS MAGAZINE and the Action Cancer Big Bus, Northern Pharmacies’ patients recently received a major boost!

The Action Cancer Big Bus recently rolled up at Northern Pharmacies at Brownlow Health Centre in Legahory, Craigavon to provide both cancer screening and MOT health checks.

Profile Publishing, which produces Pharmacy in Focus magazine, was behind the appearance of the Big Bus at the Craigavon venue. As the publishers of healthcare magazines, Profile is more than aware of the need for cancer screening and early diagnosis, so when Q Radio recently held a radiothon supporting cancer charities in the province, the company was only too delighted to make a donation of £1,000.

In return, Profile was given the use of the Action Cancer Big Bus for a day and decided to team up with Northern Pharmacies to provide both cancer screening and MOT health checks at Brownlow on Wednesday 26 September.

‘At Profile, we are only too aware of how important the Action Cancer Big Bus is to both men and women across the Province,’ said Profile Director, Maureen Delaney. ‘One in eight women in Northern Ireland will be diagnosed at some point with breast cancer. That’s a very frightening statistic, but early detection makes it a very treatable diagnosis and that is why we are delighted to be able to sponsor the bus for the day at Northern Pharmacies in Craigavon.’

Pharmacy manager, Martin McVeigh, was delighted that the bus was able to offer such services to his local patients. ‘One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer,’ Martin told PiF, ‘but, by using the latest digital mammography technology, we are now able to see cancers that are only millimetres in size and before women have even developed symptoms or a lump.

‘The bus was also available for everyone over 16 to have an MOT health check, which included blood pressure, cholesterol and blood glucose checks in addition to a body composition analysis. The whole thing only took twenty minutes per patient, so it was a great way for them to give their body a ‘once-over’, plus there was the added benefit that the patients were able to get their MOT health check results there and then.’

On the day, 24 appointments were made available to Martin’s patients. Unfortunately, due to some technical difficulties, some appointments had to be rescheduled to alternative dates and so a total of ten clients were actually screened on the day. At the time of going to press, the mammogram images are being processed and result  letters will take up to another two weeks to arrive with clients and their GPs. If any abnormalities are detected in the screenings, then the patients will be referred to their nearest hospital breast clinic.

With regard to the MOT health checks, thirteen appointments were available. Two clients failed to         attend on the day, but the eleven, who did show up on the day, received their test results on the       spot. In cases where levels were outside of the normal range, the Action Cancer team wrote to the clients’ GPs to make them aware. As a result, three referrals were made for blood pressure and four for cholesterol levels.

‘These services are essential for patients,’ Martin McVeigh continued. ‘The appointments don’t last very long and the results for the breast screening are processed within three weeks. I would encourage any woman, who falls into this category, to take the opportunity to have a mammogram. It’s painless and well worth ten minutes for peace of mind.

‘Community pharmacy is increasingly becoming the first port of call for patients who have health concerns and Northern Pharmacies Ltd was delighted to be involved in this very worthwhile screening process.’

Amanda Higginbottom is one patient, who had her breast cancer detected on board the Action Cancer Big Bus when it visited her workplace.

‘You never expect cancer to happen to you,’ Amanda said. ‘It’s something that happens to other people. I didn’t know before that the screening was available in Belfast and, even if I had, it’s probably not something I would have bothered to do. It was because the Big Bus came to me – right to my place of work – that I went for an appointment. I was 45 when my breast cancer was detected. If I had waited until the NHS screening programme kicked in at 50, I’m convinced it would have been too  late for me.’

Host the bus!

The Big Bus facility is wheelchair accessible and operates on the first and third Mondays of the month and every Tuesday-Saturday, with appointments running from 9.30am-3.30pm. If you would like to hire the Big Bus service for your pharmacy, call Action Cancer on 028 90803370, or email

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