Prudent healthcare – what it means for pharmacists

26.06.14Royal Pharmaceutical SocietyMair Davies, FFRPS, FRPharmS, Chair of the Welsh Pharmacy Board of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society

‘Prudent healthcare’ is a phrase frequently used by politicians and healthcare leaders across Wales but what does prudent healthcare mean and what are the implications for pharmacists and the people of Wales?

According to Mark Drakeford AM, Health and Social Services Minister, prudent healthcare ‘fits the needs and circumstances of patients and actively avoids wasteful care that is not to the patient’s benefit.’

Four principles underpin prudent healthcare: (1) Achieving health and wellbeing with the public, patients and professionals as equal partners through co-production; (2) Caring for those with the greatest health need first, making the most effective use of all skills and resources; (3) Doing only what is needed, no more, no less; and do no harm; (4) Reducing inappropriate variation using evidence based practices consistently and transparently.

If the role of the pharmacy profession is viewed through the prism of the four principles of prudent healthcare, it’s evident that prudent healthcare is integral to what pharmacists do.

Let’s take point 3, for example (‘doing only what is needed, no more, no less and do no harm’). Medicines can be life-prolonging and life-saving but they can also cause harm if used incorrectly. As the experts in medicines, and the effects of medicines on people, pharmacists help ensure the safe and effective use of medicines.

The pharmacy profession is always striving to improve medicines safety, as demonstrated by recent technological developments. Wales was the first UK country to implement a comprehensive programme of automated dispensing systems – “robots” – across hospital pharmacies. These robots have underpinned improvements in the skill mix between pharmacists, pharmacy technicians and support staff, improving dispensing times for outpatients, discharge medicines and most importantly, reducing dispensing errors. These benefits have freed pharmacists to have time to develop more clinical roles with greater patient contact in hospitals.

Prudent healthcare is also integral to community pharmacy. The first principle of prudent healthcare is ‘Achieving health and wellbeing with the public, patients and professionals as equal partners through co-production.’

The community pharmacy network in Wales offers people the opportunity to access health promotion and self-care advice without a referral or an appointment and in a location that is convenient for them – for example, on high streets and in supermarkets. The pharmacy team can treat common ailments, provide healthy lifestyle information, medicines advice and deliver opportunistic health related interventions at the point of medicines supply.

Pharmacists have been practicing many of the principles of prudent healthcare for many years and they are well established in the daily roles and functions of pharmacy teams in all healthcare settings.

So, by doing our jobs to a professional standard, we are already practising prudent healthcare.

For more information about ‘prudent healthcare’ please visit