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Keith Ridge to lead government review into 'problematic polypharmacy'

Dr Ridge: Doctors, pharmacists and patients need to work together to address polypharmacy
Dr Ridge: Doctors, pharmacists and patients need to work together to address polypharmacy

Pharmacists and GPs will be encouraged to better manage patients on repeat prescriptions as part of a government review into “problematic polypharmacy” in England.

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.

You can listen to the podcast in full below. Alternatively, subscribe to all of C+D's podcasts on iTunes or by searching 'Chemist+Druggist podcast' on your preferred android podcast app.

4 Comments
Question: 
What does your pharmacy do to help tackle polypharmacy?

Ebers Papyrus, Pharmaceutical Adviser

A responsible CPO would firstly analyse the impact of their pharmacy cuts particularly in respect of risk due to staffing level reductions. They would be more involved and vocal on the medicine shortages which are causing major problems. Its seems the CPO in England is reveling in his pariah status. Santa please can we have a new one.
 

C A, Community pharmacist

Is it just me or is there any underlying mesage between the lines...?

"Pharmacists and GPs will be encouraged to better manage patients on repeat prescriptions as part of a government review into “[expensive] polypharmacy” in England."

"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, [due to the cost] (December 8)."

"The DH estimated that total NHS spending on medicines in England has grown by around 5% a year – from £13 billion in 2010-11 [which was expensive enough] to £18.2bn in 2017-18 [which is really expensive]. Around 1.1 billion prescription items are dispensed by GPs and pharmacists a year, it added."

 

Suppose we have to get ready for more Austerity somehow post Brexit.

Dodo pharmacist, Community pharmacist

If Ridge is involved then no good will come of it for community pharmacy. He has to be the only Chief Pharmaceutical Officer in history who hates community pharmacies and wants to close them down. How has this man been allowed to stay in his position when the CPO’s in Wales and Scotland are so supportive of community pharmacy?

Ben Merriman, Community pharmacist

Ah, the good Dr Ridge is in charge.  That's another 1,000 pharmacies to close and Drugs4U to be pushed as the faceless alternative, then...

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