New plans to recruit hundreds of care home pharmacists through the Pharmacy Integration Fund (PhIF) will save £24m worth of medicine waste, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) has said.

RPS’s English board chair Sandra Gidley said that NHS England’s plans – announced on Friday (16 March) – to use £20m of the PhIF to recruit 180 pharmacists and 60 pharmacy technicians in care homes ‘will cut the estimated annual £24m of medicines wasted in care homes every year’.

The PhIF is a pot of funding designed to clinically integrate pharmacy within the wider NHS.

‘Bang on target’

Ms Gidley continued: ‘Our overstretched NHS is crying out for solutions and this one is bang on target.

‘Pharmacists have long played a vital role in care homes, and the work done by the care home vanguards has been outstanding.

‘This new move will continue the greater integration of pharmacists across primary and community settings to improve clinical outcomes and we know that colleagues will welcome the opportunity to provide more direct patient care.’

Overmedication issue

The scheme was designed to ‘help cut overmedication and unnecessary hospital stays for frail older patients’ living in nursing or residential homes.

Commenting on the launch, NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens argued that ‘there’s increasing evidence that our parents and their friends – a whole generation of people in their 70s, 80s and 90s – are being overmedicated in care homes, with bad results’.

He said: ‘Let’s face it – the policy of ‘a pill for every ill’ is often causing frail older people more health problems than it’s solving.

‘So expert pharmacists are now going to offer practical NHS support and medicines reviews in care homes across England.’

According to NHS England, older care home residents are prescribed around seven medicines daily – with nearly 10% of people over the age of 75 currently being prescribed 10 or more medicines.

Avoidable hospital admissions

Studies suggest that up to one in 12 of all hospital admissions are medicines-related, of which two thirds are preventable, NHS England said.

Results from the trials piloted in six care homes vanguard sites showed that pharmacists reviewing medicines reduced emergency hospital admissions by 21% and ambulance call out by up to 30% and saved £125-305 per resident.