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Patient safety alert addresses medicine risks with homecare services

Homes in England

Source: Arsty / Dreamstime.com

Homecare medicines services have expanded in recent years, but cases of failure to supply have risen, too

Healthcare organisations that commission homecare services are required to take immediate action to minimise the risks associated with omitted and delayed medicines, according to a “patient safety alert” issued by NHS England this week (10 April 2014).

The alert requires relevant bodies — usually NHS trusts — to establish whether homecare services are used, and if incidents of omitted or delayed medicines have occurred, to develop an action plan to reduce potential risks to patients and to report incidents to the National Reporting and Learning System.

Organisations are also asked to send the alert to staff who are involved in caring for patients in receipt of medicine homecare services and to share any learning from local investigations or locally developed good practice protocols.

The alert follows the withdrawal from the market of Medco, a major homecare services provider in late 2013, which “caused transitional issues for patients and increased pressure on existing suppliers, which has resulted in an increased risk to patients of medicine doses being omitted or delayed”, according to the alert.

As medicine homecare services have increased in recent years, so has the number of reports of failure to supply homecare medicines and products on time. The alert states: “In response to these problems the homecare industry is taking action to improve services, and some providers have suspended accepting new high risk patients until necessary service improvements have been made.”

Healthcare organisations that commission homecare services are reminded that they have a responsibility to ensure the safety of patients who receive these services. “This may include assessing the current capability of homecare services, ensuring homecare patients are aware of how and when to contact the commissioning organisation when problems occur, and ensuring alternative methods of supply are available to support these patients,” it states.

The actions listed within the alert should be implemented as soon as possible and no later than 9 May 2014.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2014.11137256

Readers' comments (1)


  • Do you think this should influence the pharmacists decision in supplying patients with dosette trays?


    We often refuse MDS to patients when they are under the care of somebody qualified to administer medicines; especially in light of the fact that the provision of medicines in dosette trays removes batch numbers, PIL's, aseptic assurance, dose control, patient understanding, increases the likelihood of dispensing errors, increases the pharmacy workload five fold all for a service behind which there is very very limited evidence of its being able to improve patient adherance.


    But if there are clear concerns over homecare services should we be more willing to blister pack a patients medicines?

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

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