Asking patients using pharmacy services what they need

by Stephanie West, RPS Regional Liaison Pharmacist

In our previous blog, Nicky Gray spoke about the ‘strength and authenticity’ of relationships between stakeholders as central to successful integrated working. The same holds true when engaging the populations we serve. Promoting a positive patient experience of health and social care services, through providing integrated out-of-hospital care for patients, is a central aim for PCNs.

Community pharmacy has firm foundations to build upon. The National Healthwatch Report 2016 found that:

  • Three quarters of people say they would go to a pharmacist, rather than a GP, to get medication for a minor illness.
  • Over half would go to a pharmacist to seek advice for a specific minor illness or injury.
  • A third of people would consider using a pharmacy instead of visiting a GP for general medical advice.’

Community pharmacy was also the healthcare service of choice for ‘traditionally harder to engage groups.’ Significantly, the report found that participants ‘trusted the pharmacist’.

Asking patients

One thing that strikes me is – how are patients being consulted and educated about the increasing clinical services delivered by pharmacists? How is the patient voice being captured?

GP Practices have engaged with patients through Patient Participation Groups for many years, to make sure ‘that their practice puts the patient, and improving health, at the heart of everything it does’ These could be a useful forum to capture patient views on new ways of accessing care from the wider PCN team. If you are part of a group focussing on the role of pharmacists in the practice, please get in touch.

Community pharmacists have to conduct an annual patient survey. This focuses on traditional services and advice-giving and could be developed to raise awareness of different clinical services. 

The Berwick Review called for the NHS to ‘Engage, empower, and hear patients and carers at all times’. NHS Trusts have patient and public engagement strategies, recognising the importance of capturing patient views. There are opportunities to do this, many trusts will have patient representation on their Medicines Safety Committee, but can we engage them more widely as strategies for pharmacy and medicines optimisation are developed across Integrated Care Systems?

Shared decision-making

Liberating the NHS: No decision about me without me  focussed on shared-decision making. How are pharmacists ensuring that patients are fully involved in decisions about their own care and treatment? How is pharmacy linked with local communities, groups and networks? NICE Guidance identifies Shared decision-making as ‘an essential part of evidence-based medicine’ and the NHS Patient Safety Strategy 2019 commits to: ‘Commission shared decision-making (SDM) training for clinical pharmacists moving into PCNs, to work with patients with atrial fibrillation (AF) on anticoagulants’.

Get in touch

Our new System Leadership Resource section on ‘Culture Change’ includes a focus on meaningful engagement with local people. If you have a case study showing how you have improved health outcomes or developed a service through patient engagement, shared-decision making and/or co-production we would like to share your insights so please do contact us.


 


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The role of pharmacists in preventing cardiovascular disease

By Dr Duncan Petty, Member of the English Pharmacy Board

It was great to see the news this week about how the NHS plans to make greater use of community pharmacy to help prevent 150,000 strokes, heart attacks and cases of vascular dementia, supporting earlier detection and management of cardiovascular risks.

Cardiovascular disease incidence can be reduced through better lifestyles and the optimisation of preventative medicines, such as antihypertensives and statins to prevent vascular strokes and ischaemic heart disease / myocardial infarction, and anticoagulants for stroke prevention in atrial fibrillation.

NHS plans will include using pharmacists in the community (community pharmacy and general practice-based) to work on identification of at-risk individuals; offering lifestyle advise and supporting long-term changes in poor lifestyle; offering or optimising preventative medicines, and helping patients remain on these medicines. Pharmacists having been doing this work around the UK for many years. The difference going forward is that these services will be done in a systematic way and on a wider scale.

The community pharmacy contract could see (subject to successful pilots and roll-out) screening services for hypertension and atrial fibrillation. In general practice pharmacists might already be familiar with using tools such as AlivecorR to detect AF and most pharmacist will be able to measure blood pressures. However, to advise patients on 10-year cardiovascular risks a cholesterol level will be needed as will skills in using risk calculators such as QRISK 3.

For patients with a high cardiovascular risk score, overall risk can be reduced through lifestyle (especially smoking cessation support); reduced blood pressure (from lifestyle changes and introduction on antihypertensives) and offering statins at an evidence-based dose. There are plenty of examples where pharmacist have been involved in case finding untreated and undertreated patients and offering medicines optimisation and lifestyle support, which you can read about in our roundtable report.

Offering oral anticoagulants (OACs) for stroke prevention in AF (SPAF) is more complex and requires skills and knowledge on what are true contraindications to OAC (actually there are very few); access to the full medical history and team work with the GP and specialist pharmacy anticoagulant services. Most patients when they have had risks and benefits of OAC explained to them are keen to accept therapy but pharmacists need to be skilled in running these types of consultations.

Once patients are prescribed OAC, statins and antihypertensives ongoing reviews are required. Community pharmacy will be well placed to support adherence and to offer patients ongoing advise on reducing bleed risks from OACs (e.g. using the HAS BLED tool) but to perform a full clinical review of most CV medicines access to the clinical record will be required e.g. to check monitoring parameters such as U+Es, full blood count etc). There is nothing to stop community pharmacists performing these reviews if they are given access to the patient’s clinical record. Whether community pharmacy access is granted or not is dependent on local arrangements and funding, but examples exist across whole communities such as in Fleetwood.

Cardiovascular medicines optimisation services are already running in parts of the NHS. What we need now is to share the learning and adopt standardised services at scale to help improve patient care, safety and value to the NHS.

Read our roundtable report on pharmacy and cardiovascular disease.