In England, there are currently 45,923 registered pharmacists, 19,510 pharmacy technicians and 12,042 community pharmacies offering knowledgeable healthcare advice.
As part of NHS England’s Refreshing NHS Plans for 2018-19, nursing homes across the country could soon be recruiting pharmacists and pharmaceutical technicians in a bid to reduce unnecessary medication intake among residents, and utilising pharmacists to their full potential.
While certain attitudes lean towards a, “pill for every ill” mentality, this can be detrimental to health, especially in older people. With some care home residents taking ten or more prescription medications to control several long-term health conditions, trials that saw pharmacists reviewing and reducing medication intake had a positive impact on their quality of life.
It is hoped that recruiting pharmacists to work in nursing homes will improve the standards of care and effectively utilise the skills that they have to offer. Giving pharmacists an overall responsibility for the distribution of medication would enable more effective monitoring. For example, if residents are suffering from side effects, then a pharmacist would be able to make a logical assessment, which could mean reducing medication intake or changing the prescription for a more suitable medicine based on the resident’s individual needs.
Reducing medication would not only prevent overmedication among nursing home residents and elderly people, but would also alleviate a financial strain on the NHS, as well as local services such as GP centres.
Results of the trials made notable changes to both patient care and NHS resources, including:
- 21% fewer reported emergency hospital admissions
- 30% fewer ambulance callouts
- 7% less oral nutrition support usage
- a drug saving cost of between £125-£305 per resident
Enlisting pharmacists to help with monitoring, assessing and reducing medication for residents is set to make a big financial difference: currently, around £24 million is spent on wasted medicines within care homes.
However, residential facilities are not the only institution responsible for the cost of wasted medication. In East Berkshire alone, the county wastes an estimated £1.8 million on prescriptions annually. This wastage is largely due to patients’ lack of understanding on the true cost of dispensing medicine. Currently, prescription medications are free for people over 60 and those with chronic illnesses, and often medication is simply forgotten, rather than wilfully wasted.
Once a patient receives prescription medication, it cannot be returned, resold or reused by another individual, and must be disposed of once it reaches its expiration date. Wastage arises when a person decides to stop taking medication, often of their own volition.
While GPs have a responsibility to reduce medication issued to patients by promoting self-care where possible, recipients of prescriptions must be pro-active in making healthy lifestyle changes. These preventative adjustments, such as eating a balanced diet and taking up regular exercise, can also have an impact on reducing medication intake in the future.
Patients could also have a positive impact in reducing medication wastage by consulting with a pharmacist and reviewing their prescriptions if they are in anyway ineffective or cause unwanted side effects.
As well as offering advice and dispensing medicine, pharmacists are knowledgeable healthcare professionals that are often overlooked by patients seeking medical advice.
A recent poll conducted by Boots Chemist revealed that only one in three people would consider visiting a local pharmacist for healthcare advice; however, pharmacies offer a wide range of healthcare services beyond dispensing prescription medications.
Adopting a, “think pharmacy first” approach to healthcare can have a positive impact in several ways, including:
- reducing medication prescriptions
- reducing waiting times and freeing emergency healthcare services and GP centres for patients with more severe health issues
- ensuring that people with minor healthcare issues receive prompt medical attention and care
Consulting with a local pharmacist could lead to reducing medication intake and living a better quality of life by adopting alternative lifestyle choices.
More information about local pharmacies can be found by using the NHS Choices pharmacy finder.