Pharmacists in care homes could save the NHS £135m per year

The NHS could save £135 million a year through the widespread introduction of a pharmacist into every care home across Great Britain according to a new report from the Royal Pharmaceutical Society.

RPS_ crest_positive‘The Right Medicine – Improving Care in Care Homes’ concludes that pharmacist led medicine reviews in care homes can not only improve safety for residents but also save the NHS money by preventing avoidable hospital admissions.

In response to the report’s findings, the RPS, Alzheimer’s Society, The Patients Association and Care England, have called 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.

Yearly savings of £60 million could be made through medicine reviews carried out by pharmacists, and £75 million through the prevention of avoidable hospital admissions.

Sandra Gidley headshot - 2Sandra 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. The number of drugs prescribed by hospital, community and out of hours care for multiple conditions can quickly mount up. 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.

“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.”

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.”

The report identifies the key areas where pharmacists in a home can improve care and safety:

  • Falls – a pharmacist should be involved in assessing falls risk from the medicines the patient takes
  • Psychotropic medicines (affecting a person’s mental state) – Pharmacists should provide oversight to ensure their use is kept to a minimum.
  • Waste – An estimated £24 million is lost every year due to medicine wastage. Pharmacists can solve this, improve efficiency and provide better health outcomes.
  • End-of-life care – advice about and access to end-of-life medicine should be formalised between prescribers, pharmacists and care home providers.
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