Experts call for every care home in Britain to have its own pharmacist

Every care home in Great Britain should have its own in-house pharmacist, according to the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, which estimates that the move would save £135 million for the NHS.

In an RPS report, The Right Medicine – Improving Care in Care Homes, the society suggests that pharmacist-led medicine reviews in care homes can not only improve safety for elderly care home residents but also save the NHS money by preventing avoidable hospital admissions.

The report comes a month after doctors’ union the British Medical Association voted in favour of reducing or stopping GP visits to care homes.

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The RPS has been joined by the Alzheimer’s Society, The Patients Association and Care England in a call for a pharmacist, as part of the healthcare team, to take charge of the whole system of medicines and their use within a care home to improve patient care, reduce the waste of NHS medicines and prevent the serious harm that can be caused by inappropriate medicines use in elderly residents.

Sandra Gidley, chair of the RPS English Board said: “Care home residents take an average of seven medicines a day with some taking double or treble this amount. Without a regular review of what’s still needed, this cocktail of drugs can cause poor health, a lower quality of life and costly unnecessary admissions to hospital.

“At a time when GP workloads are overwhelming and the NHS needs every penny, pharmacists can provide the solution by stopping the use of unnecessary medicines, upgrading residents to newer types of medicines with fewer side-effects and reducing the amount of wasted medicines.

“Having a pharmacist responsible for the use of medicines in a care home as part of the team of health professionals would also bring significant savings through regular reviews. The evidence is clear: now is the time for the NHS to act and improve the care of residents by ensuring a pharmacist has responsibility for the whole system of medicines and their use within a care home.”

The RPS estimates that pharmacist-led medicine reviews with residents and their families can save up to £60 million per year as a result of a pharmacist stopping, reducing, starting or changing medication.

Pharmacist-led medicine reviews in care homes have also been calculated to save £190 per resident by preventing avoidable hospital admissions caused by potential drug related adverse events. When the RPS applied this cost saving to the number of elderly care home residents across the UK taking at least one medicine, it was estimated that over £75 million per year could be saved.

Laurie Thraves, senior policy officer at Alzheimer’s Society said: “With 70% of people in care homes estimated to have dementia, having a pharmacist on hand to support people with the condition to manage and review their medication on a regular basis would be a welcome measure. Many people with dementia live with other long-term health conditions and there is a danger that, without effective management, they could end up on a number of drugs which could interact negatively with each other, exacerbating the symptoms of their dementia. Having a visiting pharmacist in care homes has the potential to both save money and improve quality of life.”

Care Home Professional editor’s note:

“The RPS focuses on the cost saving to the NHS, but does not reach the important conclusion that the £135 million should be moved from the NHS to care home operators. Pharmacists in care homes, with the power to prescribe the most effective medicines, is an excellent idea, but if the cost falls to care home operators, they will be rejected.”

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