The Hospital Call

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Written by Laura Buckley – creator of ‘Mum Does Drugs’ and Primary Care Network Pharmacist, National Health Service, United Kingdom

The phone rings and they’re all too busy to answer.

and the pharmacist is talking to someone with cancer.

No-one wants to break off as distraction leads to mistakes,

But when the phone rings again and again, someone has to take a break.

The hospital is calling; they have a patient of ours.

The label doesn’t match the box, and it’s like cold showers

of panic that drop through the person on the phone.

‘Is the patient ok? What was the error?’ The staff groan.


Each one of them stops and turns around to look

they’ve realised someone made a mistake and they’re all quite shook.

Because in this job, mistakes cost lives;

everything is structured and everyone strives

to minimise the chances of causing patients harm.

A phone call like this causes the team alarm.


‘Who was the patient? Do you have a name?’

They’re all looking panic-stricken; someone lost in this risk-dodging game.

The patient is ok and they’re all quite relieved.

But it could have been worse, people have been bereaved

because of mistakes that pharmacy staff make.

The patient may be ok but they all ache,

with worry and with stress because they’re reminded that they’re human.

They’re reminded how easy it happens and to be perfect they’d be superhuman.


To minimise the risk, they separate the drugs that sound alike,

But sometimes they’re short-staffed and tempted to go on strike.

They’re almost picking amitriptyline or allopurinol instead of amlodipine,

Propranolol, promethazine, procyclidine or prochlorperazine.

They’re rushing round knowing that things aren’t very good,

they’re under lots of pressure and they’d change things if they could.


The world needs to understand the pressure that we face,

us pharmacists, technicians and dispensers in the race

to ensure our patients are treated with safety and care.

If we aren’t properly supported, the public should beware.

For if we don’t get the support that we need,

phone calls like this will become commonplace so help us all, must we plead?

The opinions expressed in the article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the view of MPS YPC 

Laura Buckley is a community pharmacist by background but is now moving into a primary care position. She enjoys writing and has created her blog ‘Mum Does Drugs’ to combine her passion for community pharmacy, writing and parenting her two sons.