Dispensing good advice to bridge gap in patient safety

by Melissa Clark

Monday, April 21st, 2014

ERI HospitalA unique programme that aims to reduce harm to patients by ensuring closer working between GPs and pharmacists is being launched in Scotland.

The Scottish Patient Safety Programme (SPSP) in Primary Care, run by Healthcare Improvement Scotland, has been awarded £450,000 over two years from the Health Foundation to run an improvement collaborative to enhance communications between GPs and pharmacists working in primary care (typically GP practices).

Research has revealed that up to 5% of prescriptions contain an error while the potential role pharmacists could play in their local communities in improving patient safety has yet to be fully harnessed.

The majority of patient consultations are safe and more than 90% of these take place in primary care every year. However, it is known some hospital admissions are due to the adverse effects of medication.

The SPSP project is one of only 10 selected from more than 100 applicants across the UK and the only successful Scottish applicant to take part in the Health Foundation’s Closing the Gap in Patient Safety Programme and to receive part of the overall £4 million funding.

Jill Gillies, who leads the SPSP in Primary Care team, said that by forging closer links between primary care settings and community pharmacists,  prescribing discrepancies which can happen, for example when patients are discharged from hospital, can be picked up and the potential harm to patients can be greatly reduced.

She said: “Our main aim is to improve and bridge the gap in relations between pharmacists and GPs.

“We know, for example, that pharmacists are not contacted after a patient is discharged from hospital. Yet they have a vital role to play in ensuring the prescription is safely dispensed to assist in the patient’s ongoing treatment.

“Under this initiative, the pharmacists would take charge of undertaking accurate and consistent medication monitoring. This could happen after someone has been discharged from hospital, or when someone is prescribed a high risk medicine, such as warfarin.

“This is a ground-breaking project that aims to strengthen the link between GPs and pharmacists – it clearly demonstrates the commitment of the SPSP in Primary Care team to explore innovative ways to improve patient safety in Scotland.

“The overall ambition for this improvement collaborative is to reduce harm to patients in any primary care setting. We hope the programme will eventually spread out nationally.”

The funding will allow three NHS boards to test the programme over the next two years.

Discussions are continuing to appoint the pilot area. It is intended that the programme will be trialled across both rural and urban locations before being evaluated by NHS Education for Scotland and the University of Strathclyde to see if it is robust enough to be rolled out nationally.

It is intended that each pilot area will recruit a pharmacy clinical lead, eight pharmacy teams, an acute sector team and two GP practices to test various new tools and interventions developed within the programme.

The Health Foundation is an independent charity working to improve the quality of healthcare in the UK.

Dr Jo Bibby, Director of Strategy at the Health Foundation, said: “We are very pleased to support Healthcare Improvement Scotland in this first of its kind collaboration that has potential to play a major role in improving patient safety.

“We are confident the new programme will be welcomed extremely positively by all within the healthcare sector and will make a valuable contribution in reducing harm to patients in Scotland.”

Melissa Clark

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