Creating a new NHS England: Health Education England, NHS Digital and NHS England have merged. Learn more.
Pharmacy’s role enhancing health in Care Homes
NHS England’s National Pharmacy lead for Care Homes explains how the Vanguards are reducing the risks of medicine-related complications and unplanned hospital admissions:
I know a woman in a care home, let’s call her Dorothy.
Dorothy is happy in her care home; she has a loving family, good care and makes her own choices. Dorothy is fully involved in decisions about her medicines and only takes what she feels is important to her at this point in her life.
Sadly, Dorothy is the exception rather than the rule when it comes to medicines use by care home residents.
Following publication of the Care Homes Use of Medicines Study (CHUMS) in 2009, a number of other high profile organisations – including NICE and The King’s Fund – have published reports highlighting the poor quality of care and risk of harm in these cases.
In short, if you live in a care home you’re likely to take multiple medicines, have little say in what medicines you are given and not have a regular, detailed review of your medicines.
Quite often residents take prescribed medicines that are no longer needed, which can impair overall quality of life, sometimes severely, and may even cause harm.
It’s not all doom and gloom; there is emerging evidence that pharmacy teams – pharmacists and pharmacy technicians – are well placed to improve medicines optimisation for care homes and their residents.
The Northumbria Shine Shine project project showed that when you undertake a patient-centred review of medicines, you not only improve quality and safety but can release healthcare resources and funding. We, and I have to declare an interest here, it was my project before I joined NHS England, managed to stop one-in-five medicines because they were either no longer indicated, unsafe or the patient made an informed decision not to take the medicine.
Learning from the six NHS England Care Home Vanguards and the Northumberland Integrated Primary and Acute Care System (PACS) Vanguard, further showed that pharmacy teams embedded within the system and integrated across social, primary and secondary organisations, can prevent hospital admissions, facilitate faster discharge, and make a big impact on safety, quality and health/ social care expenditure.
There are a number of tools and guidelines to support pharmacists, however, it ultimately comes down to asking some common sense questions:
Does the medicine have a purpose/indication? Is the medicine appropriate or safe?
Is there medicine missing that the patient could benefit from? What are the patient’s or family and carers’ views and wishes?
An action plan is then drawn up with the patient and family or carer as well as the wider multi-disciplinary team and actioned once the patient/family/carer has agreed. There’s a follow up a few weeks after the review and nurses monitor patients.
Patient involvement is key and quite often put in the ‘hard to do’ box, with clinicians giving reasons such as poor cognition and frailty. We developed a patient involvement framework:
Patients should be involved in all decisions. If this is not possible then…
The family should be fully involved. Where the family want no involvement…
A letter outlining discussions and interventions made by the team is sent to the family, with option for them to comment or reverse any changes made.
In cases where the patient has no family then advocates are asked to challenge and ask questions.
The care homes arena has also been the ideal place for pharmacy technicians to show what they are capable of achieving in the NHS. Pharmacy technicians in care homes broadly have three roles: clinical (medicines reconciliation, medicines review, patient counselling, follow up), technical (medicines waste management, supporting supply and ordering) and training (care home staff, community pharmacy, general medical practice teams).
In fact, pharmacy technicians working for the Northumberland PACS Vanguard are currently doing traditional pharmacist roles in supporting and reviewing medicines with some low-risk patients, allowing pharmacists more time to work with the more complex, frailer patients.
There is a step before all this; to make medicines optimisation work well, we need good relationships with the care homes, general practices, community pharmacy, care home/community nurses, the allied health professionals who also support the care home, and, most importantly, the resident and their family.
The key learning from our Shine project was that you could achieve more if you worked better with your local professionals and support teams. For example, in Northumberland, we created better links between experts in old age psychiatry and general practice, so decisions that ordinarily wouldn’t have been made (such as stopping ‘specialist’ medicines such as antipsychotics in dementia patients) could be openly discussed.
I am going for an interview for a pharmacy technicians role in care homes, are ther any tips that I can take with me or discuss at the interview.
For example Vanguard is something that I don’t know much about, please are you able to help
How do I get involved with this as a pharmacy technician
As I work in care home services within a well known company and know how much waste is coming back on a daily basis
Hi Michelle. Fantastic that you’re interested in pharmacy tech roles in care homes. We’re currently at the commissioning stage and working with Sustainable Transformation Partnerships (STP) to identify organisations to employ folk like you. We’re looking for techs to work across the system and establish relationships with hospitals, GPs, community pharmacy, etc not matter who their employer is.
Look out for jobs in the coming months. Before then find local services to you and do some shadowing. Also see CPPE training on care homes and meds opt – get yourself ready for these exciting new roles.
Interesting information, I was not aware of the in depth involvement of Pharmacy Technicians but am researching more to be more involved and active.
I am looking to fill one of these roles in the Maidstone area
Pharmacy technicians are a really important part of the Pharmacy team. The work they are currently doing in care homes both benefits individual residents (through medicines optimisation) and care homes (through staff support/training, managing medicines systems). A pharmacist-pharmacy tech team can improve quality and safety and save vital NHS and care home resources. Wishing you the best of luck in getting a care home based role.
is there a new training pathway to learn about medicines optimisation in care homes?
Hi Shailesh. Through NHS England’s Medicines Optimisation in Care Homes programme, there will be 600 training places available to pharmacists and pharmacy technicians. Look out for details.
Hi Wasim. I just wondered if there was an update on when more details about the above programme would be released?
Hi Emma We are just working through the operationalisation process and hope to announcing very soon. We have an extensive comms plan so that all key stakeholders are informed.
“The family should be fully involved. Where the family want no involvement…
A letter outlining discussions and interventions made by the team is sent to the family, with (an/the?) option for them to comment or reverse any changes made.”
By a ‘Sign on delivery/receipt’ service, one trusts?
Hi. By a number of methods depending on the circumstances. The point being that if the patient lacks capacity to make decisions then we must try hard to get some sort of advocacy for the patient.
A direct answer would have been useful?
If “the family want no involvement…”, isn’t it essential that you have proof you tried to glean their reaction to your proposals?
You claim “we must try hard to get some sort of advocacy for the patient”
Some examples would have proved interesting, that’s if you have given serious consideration to the matter?
“some sort of advocacy” lacks an element of deep thought, don’t you think?
No reply, Mr Wasim Baqir.
Greater support for care home residents via pharmacists is an excellent idea and needs to be encouraged. The case vignette described here wisely cites ‘Dorothy’, since figures suggest there are around three times as many female as male residents in care home. The list of gender-related medical differences relevant to pharmaceutical care in older people (and others)is quite considerable, but mention of these is noticeably absent from pharmaceutical documents and strategies. Many pharmacists seem unaware that there even are any. Hopefully they will be taken on board before long, since recognition is long overdue.
Hi Christine, you make an important point. Pharmacists when undertaking medicines optimisation reviews individualise these to the patient and the patient’s needs.