Investing in a pharmacist for every care home across the UK could save the NHS £135m a year, according to a Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) report.

‘The Right Medicine – Improving Care in Care Homes’ study concludes that pharmacist-led medicine reviews in residential homes could net £60m for the health service in saved costs.

Pharmacist expertise could prevent a further £75m in waste by preventing avoidable hospital admissions caused by potential drug related adverse events.

The report calls for a pharmacist to be part of the integrated care home team at a time when the sector is facing a 6% budget reduction.

Sandra Gidley, chair of the RPS English Board, said: “The evidence is clear: now is the time for the NHS to act and improve the care of residents by ensuring a pharmacist has responsibility for the whole system of medicines and their use within a care home.

“At a time when community pharmacy is facing unprecedented pressure through a £170m cut to its funding, the RPS is seeking ways forward by proposing new ideas about how pharmacists from all sectors can be better integrated across NHS services.”

In response to the report’s findings, the RPS, Alzheimer’s Society, Patients Association and Care England have jointly stated that a pharmacist should take charge of the whole system of medicines and their use within a care home to improve patient care, reduce the waste of NHS medicines and prevent the serious harm that can be caused by inappropriate medicines use in elderly residents.

Care home residents take an average of seven medicines a day, with some taking triple that amount.

Gidley said: “The number of drugs prescribed by hospital, community and out of hours care for multiple conditions can quickly mount up.

“Without a regular review of what’s still needed, this cocktail of drugs can cause poor health, a lower quality of life and costly unnecessary admissions to hospital.

“Pharmacists can provide the solution by stopping the use of unnecessary medicines, upgrading residents to newer types of medicines with fewer side-effects and reducing the amount of wasted medicines.

There are currently 405,000 care home residents in the UK aged over 65, with approximately 97% being prescribed at least one medicine.

Nearly three quarters are exposed to a minimum of one potential medicine administration error.

The RPS estimates that pharmacist-led medicine reviews with residents and their families can save up to £60 million per year as a result of a pharmacist stopping, reducing, starting or changing medication.

Pharmacist-led medicine reviews in care homes have also been calculated to save £190 per resident by preventing avoidable hospital admissions caused by potential drug related adverse events.

When the RPS applied this cost saving to the number of elderly care home residents across the UK on at least one medication, it was estimated that over £75 million per year could be saved.

Laurie Thraves, senior policy officer at Alzheimer’s Society, said: “With 70% of people in care homes estimated to have dementia, having a pharmacist on hand to support people with the condition to manage and review their medication on a regular basis would be a welcome measure.

“Many people with dementia live with other long-term health conditions and there is a danger that, without effective management, they could end up on a number of drugs which could interact negatively with each other, exacerbating the symptoms of their dementia.

“Having a visiting pharmacist in care homes has the potential to both save money and improve quality of life.”

The number of older people using residential and nursing care homes rose by 21% from 135,000 to 164,000 from 2005-13.

For the full report click here