Referring patients from hospital to community pharmacy

heidi 1By Heidi Wright, RPS Practice and Policy Lead for England

Research shows that around 60% of patients have 3 or more medicines changed during their hospital stay, 20% experience side-effects after having their medicines changed and almost half of all patients experience an error with their medicines after they are discharged from hospital.

The upshot is that vital medicines can end up being taken late, or not at all, because the details needed to ensure the safe transfer of medicines information between care settings have not been provided or followed up.

Today East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust is launching their pioneering ‘Refer-to-Pharmacy’ scheme which tackles this problem head-on.  It involves patients in hospital being visited by a hospital pharmacist or pharmacy technician, who then sets up an electronic referral appointment with the patient’s chosen community pharmacist.

The referral alerts them to the patient’s discharge and provides vital information about medication changes, which they can then use to provide post-discharge support at the pharmacy, ensuring better continuity of care. Working together, the pharmacy teams at the hospital and in the community help patients get the best from their medicines and stay healthy at home.

This system really needs to become standard practice across the country. To help this happen, the RPS Innovators’ Forum has produced a toolkit, Hospital Referral to Community Pharmacy, endorsed by the Royal College of Physicians, on how to implement an electronic referral system in your area.

The toolkit provides the business case for investment in an e-referral system and gives practical advice on how to implement it along with helpful case studies.

The accurate transfer of medicines information when a patient is discharged from hospital has been a problem for as long as I can remember.  Back in 2011 the RPS issued good practice guidelines on transfer of care for health professionals and commissioners & providers.

It’s obvious that patients in hospital should be routinely referred to their community pharmacist for post-discharge support with their medicines.  The benefits for patients are clear – better adherence to their medicines, a reduction in hospital admissions, fewer medicines errors and better health.

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