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NHS England will recruit 240 pharmacists for care homes

The pharmacists will review medication to help cut unnecessary hospital stays for elderly residents

Ingrid Torjesen

Friday, 16 March 2018

NHS England is to recruit and deploy 240 pharmacists and pharmacy technicians in care homes to help reduce overmedication and cut unnecessary hospital stays.

Around 180,000 people living in nursing or residential homes will have their prescriptions and medicines reviewed by the new pharmacists and pharmacy technicians.

Studies suggest up to one in 12 of all hospital admissions are medicines-related and two thirds of these are preventable, and care home residents are particularly vulnerable to admission for this reason as they often have one or more long-term health conditions. On average care home residents are prescribed seven medicines daily, and around 10% of people aged 75 and over are currently prescribed 10 or more medicines.

Trials of pharmacists reviewing medicines in care homes show that this improves patients’ quality of life by reducing unnecessary use and bringing down emergency admissions, with less time spent in hospitals.

Results from the six NHS England care homes vanguard sites piloting this approach showed a 27% cut in emergency hospital admissions, 7% fall in the use of oral nutritional support, 30% fewer ambulance call outs and drug cost savings of £125-305 per resident.

The use of clinical pharmacists and pharmacy technicians to undertake structured medicines reviews of all new and discharged care home residents in Northumberland showed that one hospital readmission could be avoided for every 12 residents reviewed. The pilot of the approach in 37 care homes in East and North Hertfordshire saved £249 per patient per year in drug costs.

Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, said: “There’s increasing evidence that our parents and their friends – a whole generation of people in their 70s, 80s and 90s – are being overmedicated in care homes, with bad results. Let’s face it- the policy of ‘a pill for every ill’ is often causing frail older people more health problems than it’s solving. So expert pharmacists are now going to offer practical NHS support and medicines reviews in care homes across England.”

Sandra Gidley, chair of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s English Board, said: “This significant investment highlights the growing recognition that pharmacists who support care home residents can reduce medicines waste, improve efficiency and provide better health outcomes.

“Many pharmacists already play a vital role in care homes, including supporting other staff as part of a multi-disciplinary team, and we know that our members will welcome the opportunity to get more involved in providing direct patient care.”

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