Lambeth and Southwark START case study
Our founder Chris Wright talks to Carys Marke, Head of the Children’s Nutrition and Dietetics service at the Evening Children’s Hospital in London about their experience in using beetrootSTART across Lambeth and Southwark. beetrootSTART is currently used in the London Boroughs of Lambeth & Southwark, Lewisham, Islington and Newham.
How long have you been using START?
9 years. We started using TASTART (as it was then called – now beetroot START) when I was first involved in the implementation of the universal Free Vitamin D scheme across the boroughs of Lambeth and Southwark. Distribution of the free vitamins is through community pharmacies most of which are healthy Living pharmacies. The scheme started in September 2014.
We’ve been using it continuously since then. Our vitamin distribution service provides, through pharmacy outlets, vitamins on a ‘universal’ basis to all children from birth up to 4 years and pregnant and new mothers for up to a year, regardless of their income, so it’s not means-tested. 35 pharmacies across Lambeth and Southwark distribute the vitamins on our behalf.
START is all about collecting and auditing data regarding the distribution of vitamins. How does the data capture work?
Data regarding vitamin distribution is collected in START in pharmacies and we audit the data in our offices. When a pregnant woman or birthing person registers their pregnancy with our antenatal service, they are introduced to the free vitamin scheme and provided with a list of pharmacies in their local borough that participates in the scheme so they can go and register with the pharmacy for free vitamins. At point of registration and issue of vitamins, at the community pharmacy, the parent is issued with a Vitamin D Card, which consist of a barcoded card like a credit card. (Newham use a barcoded key-fob instead – CW). The Vitamin D card is used for subsequent supplies. This can be taken to any of the participating pharmacies (but usually their local one) this allows the pharmacy staff to scan the code and issues the vitamins.
In addition to new ante-natal registrations health visitors who visit new parents at new birth visits also check new parents are aware of the scheme and provide them with pharmacy information which they can take to a participating pharmacy to register and get their vitamins. Promotion of the vitamin scheme and the use of START is crucial in ensuring optimum take-up.
How are the vitamins distributed?
The participating pharmacies order their vitamin stock through our department and they are delivered direct to the pharmacies to dispense to parents.
Do you have administrator help?
No. However, we have a vitamin coordinator, Magdalena Matuszewska who is a nutritionist by background. She is a huge help in the scheme as a whole, as well as her use of START. She promotes the scheme and raises awareness about the importance of vitamin D with ante natal groups, families in children’s centres, and in the community. She can extract and audit data in START at any time, either using the built-in Excel-like ‘pivot table’ reporting, or asking THERAPYAUDIT support for bespoke reports, which is a no-cost option as part of the annual support charge for START. By auditing recorded vitamin distribution in START, Magdalena can identify pharmacies that might be under-reporting distribution and/or not distributing as many vitamins as they could be and provides her with a prompt to check-up with the pharmacy and answer any questions they may have.
What are the benefits of collecting data in START?
We use START to visualise performance data for our monthly meetings and identify any pharmacies that might need support. As we know the level of ordering made by each pharmacy we can audit the actual dispensing level at those pharmacies, to identify if they are over-ordering at any stage. And for our commissioners we use similar activity reports from START to inform our commissioners on a quarterly frequency.
What are the alternatives to using START to support a scheme?
I don’t know whether there are alternatives, as we have used START since we introduced the vitamin D programme. START gives us data that we wouldn’t be able to get direct from pharmacies so collecting the data using START is a good way to have a good understanding of how the programme is doing.
Would START help any borough or council offering vitamins through Healthy Living schemes?
I don’t see why not.