NHS England has recruited an ‘army’ of care home pharmacists and technicians to wage war on over-medication, it has announced.
Clinical experts including over 200 pharmacists and pharmacy technicians have been drafted in to prevent care home residents from being prescribed too many medicines, the commissioning body revealed today (10 May).
The pharmacists and technicians will also improve the residents’ quality of life and cut hospital stays. They are funded by a £20m grant from the Pharmacy Integration Fund, it said.
Recruitment started in March 2018, with 203 already in place and an ambition to secure a total of 180 pharmacists and 60 technicians by Spring 2020, NHS England told The Pharmacist. ‘Thousands more will be employed over the next five years as part of multidisciplinary teams in primary care networks,’ it added.
The pharmacists involved in the scheme are supported by 18 months of training, including becoming independent prescribers, led by Health Education England (HEE).
The new pharmacy teams are already in place in 14 parts of the country, where care home residents also have access to improved GP support and specialist dieticians as part of Integrated Care Systems (ICSs), NHS England said.
Care home residents are prescribed an average of seven medicines a day and many take 10 or more, NHS England said. This costs the NHS an estimated £250m every year.
England’s chief pharmaceutical officer Keith Ridge said: ‘Too many patients are prescribed medicines they may no longer need or may need adjusting, which is why the NHS Long Term Plan is funding expert pharmacy teams across the country to give tailored advice to care home residents and extra support to staff to increase the safety and quality of older people’s care.
‘Rather than assuming there’s a pill for every ill, increasing the availability of specialist health advice in care homes will mean residents get more personalised treatment, reduced chances of being admitted to hospital and people will have a better quality of life, for longer.
‘Proven to cut errors’
Chair of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) in England Sandra Gidley said: ‘Including pharmacy professionals in the care home workforce has been proven to cut medication errors, reduce polypharmacy and make savings for the NHS, benefitting patient care and safety.
‘Making pharmacists part of the multidisciplinary team matches the ambitions of the NHS Long Term Plan, which emphasises working across traditional boundaries with other health professions to drive up standards of care.
‘We look forward to seeing the programme expand even further and to helping colleagues, residents and their families and carers.’