“I’m not a doctor or a nurse – but I’m doing an important job”

How LPCH driver Darren Low helped keep delivering vital medicines throughout the pandemic to keep patients out of hospital

Darren Low is a driver for LloydsPharmacy Clinical Homecare, delivering essential medication to people that require chemotherapy, home parenteral nutrition and IV antibiotics.  He is an important link in a chain that helps patients receive treatment in their own home or in the community rather than having to go to hospital.

On an average day, Darren travels about 230 miles and delivers to around 23 people.  He starts most mornings at the depot on the outskirts of Bristol where he picks up his route for the day, loads up his van, checks the on-board fridge is at the right temperature, ticks off the medicines and sets up his ePod.

Darren’s wife had lung cancer five years ago, and whilst this has led to some concerns about the impact of the coronavirus, it’s also given him a unique insight into his customers’ healthcare.

He says: “At the start of the outbreak, my wife received a letter saying she needed to be shielded and it was quite a worry to me that I didn’t pass anything on to her.  But when we talked about the risks involved in me working, she could see that I was helping people who were as poorly as she had been and we agreed that I should continue.”

Darren is a welcome sight for everyone on his route. “Many of them say they want to give me a hug or sit me down with a cup of tea,” he says, “They greet me as a friend, they are so grateful, it’s fantastic.”

The new routine involves stepping two metres back from the door and he signs on behalf of the customer.  Sometimes, bags of fluids need to be delivered straight into a fridge so Darren is required to go into a patient’s home.  “I wear full PPE in that case, masks, gloves, apron, gown and visor.  Then there’s a procedure for taking it off in a certain order and it’s double bagged and sealed – it’s all done for safety for both us and our patients. We have a strict protocol.

“I have a letter saying I’m a key worker and, as I’ve been doing all the shopping, it’s been useful – especially when there was panic buying in the first few weeks and you couldn’t even get toilet roll.

“I went to Aldi one Sunday at 9.30 with the other key workers.  I queued up with all the doctors and nurses who had their NHS passes.  To be honest, I expected to be challenged, but I went straight in.  By the time I’d done my shopping, the general public were coming in and the queue at the checkout was enormous.  The chap who was on the door checking people in spotted me and said – you’re an NHS key worker, go to the front. Everyone stood back and told me to go to the front, I was so embarrassed but it was lovely that they did that. Some said thank you to me too.

“I’m helping vulnerable people stay out of hospital when it’s incredibly important that they have contact with as few people as possible. In many cases, I’m the only person they see apart from a nurse. They are especially vulnerable and we have a responsibility to keep them safe and well.

“I might not be a doctor or nurse, but I’m doing my bit. My role is important too and I’m so proud that I can help.”