The country’s chief pharmaceutical officer Keith Ridge has been asked to look into instances of “patients taking multiple medicines unnecessarily”, as part of a Department of Health and Social Care (DH) bid to curb over-prescribing in the NHS, it announced on Saturday (December 8).
The DH expects to launch the review next year, with feedback expected in 2020, and Dr Ridge will decide the scope of the review based on the issues he has been asked to address, it told C+D this morning.
This includes creating a more efficient handover process between primary and secondary care, “for example, ensuring GPs have the data they need and feel able to challenge and change prescribing made in hospitals”.
Dr Ridge will also look at improving management of patients on repeat prescriptions to ensure they “don’t remain stuck” on prescriptions that are no longer needed and will encourage other forms of care, including social prescribing, the DH explained.
Medicines spending rises 5% a year
The DH estimated that total NHS spending on medicines in England has grown by around 5% a year – from £13 billion in 2010-11 to £18.2bn in 2017-18. Around 1.1 billion prescription items are dispensed by GPs and pharmacists a year, it added.
The review will focus on patients that may be most at risk of adverse effects from overprescribing, including older patients who are often taking several different medicines to manage complex conditions, the DH said.
Announcing the review, health secretary Matt Hancock said: “As we invest an extra £20.5bn a year into our NHS, we want to empower doctors and pharmacists to use the data available to ensure patients get the medicines they need and stop taking those that no longer benefit them.
“We also need to back our GPs to move towards alternatives such as social prescribing, so we can offer more tailored healthcare that focuses on prevention,” he added.
Dr Ridge said: “Doctors, pharmacists and patients need to work together to ensure people are on the right medicines, for the right amount of time.”
RPS: Review must harness pharmacists’ skills
Commenting on the review, Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) English board chair Sandra Gidley said the review should “harness the skills of pharmacists in all care settings, from community to care homes and from GP practices to hospitals”.
“As people are living longer, often with complex and multiple conditions, the role of pharmacists in reviewing people’s medicines and ensuring they are on the most appropriate medicines for their conditions will become increasingly important,” she added.
“By working closely with other health professionals, this initiative will help to make sure that patients are taking the right medicines at the right time and not taking medicines they do not need.”
Earlier this year, C+D clinical editor Kristoffer Stewart spoke to Alpana Mair, head of effective prescribing and therapeutics at the Scottish government, to find out what polypharmacy is and how community pharmacy teams can help reduce the medicines burden for their patients.
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