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Patient safety

Pharmacists to be trained in shared decision making to improve medicines safety, NHS strategy announces

The new NHS patient safety strategy seeks to save an additional 1,000 lives and £100m in care costs each year from 2023/2024.

Pharmacists will be trained in shared decision making to help them support patients who are taking opioids, and those with atrial fibrillation on anticoagulants, NHS England and NHS Improvement have announced.

The outline for the plans, which form part of the NHS’s new Medicines Safety Improvement Programme, were unveiled as part of the ‘NHS Patient Safety Strategy’, published on 2 July 2019. The medicines safety programme also prioritises projects that seek to improve drug administration safety in care homes through regular medication review; improve the transition of patients on anticoagulants from hospital to care homes; and introduce more structured medicines reviews for patients taking multiple medicines.

In the overarching patient safety strategy document, which was developed following a public consultation held between December 2018 and February 2019, NHS England and NHS Improvement claim that almost 1,000 lives and £100m in care costs could be saved each year from 2023/2024 as a result of improved safety across the NHS.

Actions to be taken by the NHS in this area include replacing the National Reporting and Learning System with a new safety learning system to improve learning after incidents arise; establishing a new National Patient Safety Alerts Committee to improve the response to emerging risks across the NHS; and implementing a new medical examiner system to scrutinise deaths.

The strategy says that the whole healthcare system will be involved in the safety agenda and to achieve this, the NHS had committed to creating the first system-wide patient safety syllabus and training and education framework for the NHS and will establish patient safety specialists to lead safety improvement across the system.

“We welcome the ambitions of the new NHS Patient Safety Strategy and the recognition that reducing medication harm in the NHS is central to better outcomes for patients,” said Claire Anderson, chair of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s English Pharmacy Board.

“As experts in medicines, pharmacists will be at the heart of this work, including supporting shared decision-making with patients, medicines reviews and reducing problematic polypharmacy.

“The ‘NHS Long Term Plan’ recognises the vital role that pharmacists play in supporting the use of medicines. Local delivery plans must now ensure that pharmacists are embedded across the health service, supported by a strategic approach to education, training and recruitment.

“In this way, patients and NHS colleagues can benefit from pharmacists’ expertise in all care settings.”

Anderson added that after welcoming the introduction of a new criminal defence around inadvertent dispensing errors in registered pharmacies, the Society was now looking to the government to “urgently” provide a similar defence for pharmacists working in hospitals and other settings.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2019.20206753

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