NHS England is planning to recruit and deploy hundreds of pharmacists into care homes to help reduce overmedication and cut unnecessary hospital stays.

Around 180,000 people living in nursing or residential homes will have their prescriptions and medicines reviewed by the new pharmacists and pharmacy technicians, it has announced.

 

NHS trials, in East and North Hertfordshire, show pharmacists reviewing medicines improved patients’ quality of life by reducing unnecessary use and bringing down emergency admissions, with less time spent in hospitals. This approach also led to meaningful savings in unnecessary prescribing costs of £249 per patient over a year.

NHS England will roll out the approach by funding recruitment of 240 pharmacists and pharmacy technicians. The reviews will be done in coordination with GPs and practice-based clinical pharmacists to ensure people are prescribed the right medicines, at the right time, in the right way to improve their health and overall quality of life.

Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, said: “There’s increasing evidence that our parents and their friends – a whole generation of people in their 70s, 80s and 90s – are being overmedicated in care homes, with bad results. Let’s face it- the policy of ‘a pill for every ill’ is often causing frail older people more health problems than it’s solving. So expert pharmacists are now going to offer practical NHS support and medicines reviews in care homes across England.”

The use of clinical pharmacists and pharmacy technicians to undertake structured medicines reviews of all new and discharged care home residents in Northumberland showed that one hospital readmission could be avoided for every 12 residents reviewed.

Sandra Gidley, chair of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s English Board, said: “Our overstretched NHS is crying out for solutions and this one is bang on target.

“Concerns about the fact that too many care home residents take too many medicines which do them more harm than good were the driving force behind our care homes campaign which began in 2016. 

“This significant investment of £20m by NHS England from the Pharmacy Integration Fund helps meet those concerns and recognises that pharmacy teams can provide better health outcomes for care home residents, improve efficiency and reduce medicines waste. 

“Pharmacists have long played a vital role in care homes, and the work done by the care home vanguards has been outstanding. This new move will continue the greater integration of pharmacists across primary and community settings to improve clinical outcomes and we know that colleagues will welcome the opportunity to provide more direct patient care.

“This is a great start and we’d encourage NHS England go even further and give pharmacists overall responsibility for medicines and their use in care homes.  This will drive up standards of patient safety and cut the estimated annual £24 million of medicines wasted in care homes every year.”

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