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How useful are medicines helplines for patients discharged from hospital?

Abstract

Aim

To determine the number of patient helplines provided by UK medicines information and the volume of enquiries handled per year. To review patient helpline enquiries at a single medicines Information centre and to describe the demographics of service users and determine the types of questions asked.

Methods

All UK medicines information centres were surveyed. Enquiries to a single medicines information centre in 2009 were analysed with a follow-up review in 2011 to see if amendments to the discharge letter affected the types of calls received.

Results

Patient helplines are provided by 102 (55%) out of 184 UK medicines information centres. They answer up to 23,000 enquiries annually. The patient helpline at a single medicines information centre received 312 calls in one year involving 413 questions. Most commonly enquiries involved patients aged over 65 years and patients’ carers made 30 per cent of the calls. The most common reason for contacting the helpline was a lack of appropriate information in the discharge letter (24%; n=98) which decreased to 7% (n=32/475) after amendments were made to the discharge letter two years later. Many patients asked about drug interactions (n=47, 11%) or reported and sought advice for, an adverse drug event (n=43, 10%).

Conclusion

More than half of medicines Information centres provide patient helplines in the UK and answer thousands of patients’ questions about medicines each year. Patient helplines support medicines optimisation by ensuring patients have easy access to pharmacy experts to discuss concerns about their medicines and improve the quality of their pharmaceutical care.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2014.11135512

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