Co-operation, not competition is key to patient safety

By Paul Myres, Chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners in Wales

They may be different professions working in different places on the high street but there is one thing that unites GPs and pharmacists: a belief that patients in Wales are put at risk by failures in communication and understanding between health professionals – failures arising from outmoded systems and silo thinking.

Many hospitals do not have comprehensive clinical IT systems. Many IT systems don’t talk to each other. Patients are surprised at having to repeat the same information to several different health professionals and are irritated (as we are) by the failure to transfer information about their care.

In my practice in NE Wales we have welcomed input from LHB pharmacists and have enjoyed good access and communication between us and the local pharmacy over many years but it is usually by phone and never electronically. The process of sharing information is laborious and we know errors occur.

However a strong culture of trust has already been established between the two professional bodies for general practice and pharmacy. Following on from our statement of joint working last year, the RCGP in Wales is supporting the RPS in its campaign for urgent improvements in NHS IT.

Together we made the case for rapid change, at a joint reception in Cardiff in November for Welsh Assembly Members.  This prompted an immediate response from Lesley Griffiths, Minister for Health & Social Services. Speaking as part of a six month update on Together for Health, she agreed that NHS informatics were very important and confirmed that these issues are being addressed in her monthly meetings with Health Board Chairs.

Pharmacists and GPs share many of the core skills needed to care effectively for patients, such as an understanding of the body’s reaction to disease and medicines, and the need to tailor treatment to the needs of the individual patient based on the most up-to-date evidence available. I would like to see more activity building on these commonalities: joint training sessions and multi-professional meetings, with the full backing of LHBs, as well as strong personal relationships.

Patients want a seamless health service, with all healthcare professionals having access to key clinical information at the point of care.  The RCGP and RPS share this vision. It will take resources and time, but with a strong professional voice and joined-up working across our two bodies, we can deliver the service our patients deserve.

Photo thanks to 1000 Lives Plus