An innovative tool that directs discharged hospital patients for a personal appointment with their community pharmacist has been launched by the East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust (EHLT).

‘Refer-to-Pharmacy’ is the first initiative of its kind in England and forms part of the Trust’s commitment to improving integrated working between hospitals and community pharmacists.

Hospital pharmacists or pharmacy technicians visit patients prior to their discharge and set up electronic referral appointments, including all the medication information, with their community pharmacist.

The community pharmacist is then able to ensure the patient is taking their medication correctly.

The project is the brainchild of Alistair Gray, clinical services lead pharmacist at the trust, and is backed by the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS).

Dr Ian Stanley, deputy medical director at EHLT, said: “’Refer-to-Pharmacy’ is a true example of patient-centred care that not only ensures patients receive a dedicated follow-up medicines appointment after they leave hospital but in doing so, really reduces the chances of them needed to be readmitted due to problems with medication, thus saving the Trust much needed money and resources.”

It is estimated that 50% of patients with long-term conditions do not take their medicines as prescribed which is a significant contributing factor to the estimated £300 million cost to the NHS annually of wasted medicines.

Sandra Gidley, chair of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s English Board, said: “This pioneering scheme means that patients will experience the important benefits of post-discharge support with medicines at a pharmacy close to home.

“I hope this system spreads far and wide so that patients come to expect referral from hospital to community pharmacies as the norm.

“Medicines are the most common form of treatment provided by the NHS and we must get the most from them to both improve patients’ health and reduce wasted medicines.”

Refer-to-Pharmacy will benefit around 20,000 patients at the Trust each year with 75 referrals taking place on average each day.

It is hoped the initiative will improve continuity of care for patients, better adherence to medicines, a reduction in hospital admissions, fewer medicines errors and better overall health.

Professionals interested in following ELHT’s lead can access a new, free online toolkit.

‘Hospital Referral to Community Pharmacy’ has been produced by the RPS’ Innovator’s Forum and is endorsed by the Royal College of Physicians.