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Improving the safe use of medicines

The need to improve patient safety is now greater than ever with both the Shipman report and the Francis inquiry into care at Mid-Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust showing that existing services can sometimes let the public down. It is evident that pharmacists should be recognised as the forefront in improving the safe use of medicines and devices as outlined in the “Now or never” report from the Royal Pharmaceutical Society.

The exciting news is the set-up of the National Medication Safety Network. All large companies and healthcare providers will need a medication safety lead and there is work ongoing to link smaller independent contractors into the network. The RPS has advised that the lead should be a pharmacist.

In practice, at South West Yorkshire Partnership Trust, the pharmacy team carries out intervention monitoring as part of routine work and these interventions show the importance of clinical pharmacist visits. Where there is electronic prescribing in place in Scotland, Clare Morrison (PJ 2014;292: 426) outlines a novel approach to improving patient safety by categorisation via a traffic light system ensuring at-risk patients are seen as soon as possible by a clinical pharmacist. Linda Dodds’s piece (PJ 2014;292: 402), outlining interventions carried out by pharmacists into discharge prescribing, identifies the need for more organisational involvement because, although there were some positive actions, in no areas had the results been discussed with trust boards or executive committees. These are only a snapshot of interventions carried out into prescribing by pharmacists.

Community pharmacists carry out interventions regularly into prescribing but I am not currently aware of any national schemes to collate these. Community, primary care and secondary care pharmacy working together to improve data collection would help raise the profile of the pharmacists professionally within the healthcare system and substantially improve medicines safety. Collaborative working by the National Medication Safety Network, the RPS, the General Pharmaceutical Council, the local professional networks and the local practice forums will link the excellent work into prescribing interventions that is being carried out by pharmacists in all areas. This will go a long way to improving medicines safety and raise the profile of pharmacy in the new NHS.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2014.11138180

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