Developing role for pharmacists in emergency care
Pharmacists are helping to cut the workload in casualty departments
Changes to the GP contract have brought pharmacists a new role in a hospital accident and emergency department that can help the NHS meet its waiting time targets.
Pharmacists at Cardiff’s University Hospital of Wales were asked if they could help deal with the increasing workload in the hospital’s minor injuries area. They responded by making themselves available for a few hours each day to see patients who could mostly have been managed by community pharmacists.
Suzanne Davies, emergency unit pharmacy team leader, said: “The sort of conditions we saw depended on the time of year. We started in January and February with viral chests, coughs and colds, and then went into allergies, sun reactions, bites and stings.”
The pharmacists became more involved after physiotherapists pointed out that patients with suspected fractures or sprains were waiting for X-rays and diagnosis with no pain relief. Now the pharmacists are also providing analgesics, such as paracetamol, co-codamol and ibuprofen.
The new service has had a measurable impact on patient waiting times in the hospital’s A&E department. At times when pharmacists were available, the average total attendance time per patient was reduced from 157.1 minutes to 143.8 minutes. Patients who needed to see doctors also did so more quickly, with 54.8 per cent seeing a doctor within an hour, compared with 49.8 per cent when pharmacists were not available. The service, originally set up as a pilot, has been so successful that it now has permanent funding.
Pharmacists are also seen by the Department of Health as providing part of the answer to improving emergency care. A report by Sir George Alberti, the Department’s director for emergency access, published this week, sees community pharmacists working alongside other primary care professionals and using their skills to deliver good quality urgent care.
In the longer term, Professor Alberti envisages emergency care networks, which will include pharmacies, being commissioned by primary care trusts to deliver the full range of emergency services. A key challenge, he says, will be to break down existing boundaries.
“Emergency care networks will rebuild the provision of care around each patient, rather than each patient having to move from one provider to the next.”