Refer to Pharmacy

Refer to Pharmacy
Refer to Pharmacy
11 December 2015

An innovative new electronic tool which sees patients receiving a bespoke appointment with their local community pharmacist on discharge from hospital, officially launches at East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust today (11th December).

‘Refer-to-Pharmacy’ is the first of its kind in England and essentially sees patients who are being treated in its hospital visited by a hospital pharmacist or pharmacy technician and an electronic referral appointment set up with the community pharmacist with all their medication information for when they return home, to ensure that they are taking their medicines correctly. The system underlines the Trust’s commitment to closer working between hospital and community pharmacists.

Patients often start new medicines in hospital or have their doses changed, which can lead to potential problems when they return home as their medication at home or repeat prescription slips are not up to date with any changes.  By receiving an electronic referral from the hospital pharmacy team using the Refer to Pharmacy system, the community pharmacist is alerted to a patient’s discharge and the vital information about medication changes, which they can then use to support patients at a time that suits both and ensuring continuity of care. Working together the pharmacy teams help patients get the best from their medicines and stay healthy at home.

‘Refer-to-Pharmacy’ has the full backing of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) and is the brainchild of Alistair Gray, Clinical Services Lead Pharmacist at the Trust, who worked with the RPS and software developers Webstar-Health to get the project off the ground in the Trust. This was in response to problems with changes to patients’ medicines, which does sometimes result in patients being readmitted to hospital and subsequent wastage of medicines. It is estimated that 50% of patients with long-term conditions do not take their medicines as prescribed which is a significant contributing factor to the estimated £300 million cost to the NHS annually of wasted medicines.

‘Refer- to-Pharmacy’ will benefit around 20,000 patients at the Trust each year with 75 referrals taking place on average each day.

Dr Ian Stanley, Deputy Medical Director at East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “’Refer-to-Pharmacy’ is a true example of patient-centred care that not only ensures patients receive a dedicated follow-up medicines appointment after they leave hospital but in doing so, really reduces the chances of them needed to be readmitted due to problems with medication, thus saving the Trust much needed money and resources.”

Sandra Gidley, Chair of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s English Board, said: “The potential of community pharmacists to improve patient safety at the point of hospital discharge is huge.  This pioneering scheme means that patients will experience the important benefits of post-discharge support with medicines at a pharmacy close to home.  I hope this system spreads far and wide so that patients come to expect referral from hospital to community pharmacies as the norm. Medicines are the most common form of treatment provided by the NHS and we must get the most from them to both improve patients’ health and reduce wasted medicines.” 

A review into the features and benefits of referral systems currently available to transfer patients from hospital to community pharmacies has been commissioned by the North West Coast Academic Health Science Network (NWC AHSN).

Lisa Butland, Director of Innovation and Research, at NWC AHSN, said: “'Refer-to- Pharmacy' is a fantastic innovation putting safety, wastage and a patient centric approach at the heart of the hospital discharge process. It will help people discharged from hospital better understand the medication they have been prescribed and that could lead to fewer readmissions to hospital.   It was reviewed by the NWC AHSN as part of a process to support decision making for health economies nationwide that are interested in implementing electronic discharge from hospital to community pharmacy, and will be used as a catalyst to develop a local community interest to support implementation of the preferred system.”