Increasing pharmacists’ support of older people

John photographed at his home for the new 'Lets Talk Money' influencing campaign. Chadwell Heath, Dagenham.In this guest blog post, Ash Soni, President of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, writes about how pharmacists are making sure that older people are taking the right medicines in the right way.

Patient care 

More than half of people aged over 60 have a long term condition (58 per cent per cent) and at least 25 per cent of those have two or more long term conditions. That is a high number of older people on a multitude of medicines.

Residents in care homes, for example, are prescribed an average of 7-8 medicines per day. This can lead to adverse drug reactions, confusion about what needs to be taken when, or even compromised quality of life.

It is therefore vital that we make sure older people are taking the right medicines, in the right way and are being supported to manage any side effects; this is something that pharmacists do every day and we want them to have an even greater role in patient care.

Multidisciplinary working 

The role of a pharmacist is often seen as solely ‘the dispenser’. However as the experts in medicines pharmacists are able to offer much more thorough support helping people to manage and take their medicines better.

Pharmacists are increasingly working across a range of health care settings as part of the multidisciplinary team where they can support older people with advice on medicines adherence, in particular those with long term conditions. We want to see more of this multidisciplinary working to benefit patients and our ageing population.

In the community, pharmacists support patients with long-term conditions on a daily basis. For example, many offer Medicines Use Reviews, which provide opportunities for patients to discuss their medicines, understand how they should be used, why they have been prescribed and discuss any problems they may be having with them. The New Medicine Service is also available through local pharmacies in England for patients with specific long-term conditions.

Work in GP surgeries 

GP surgeries are also now employing pharmacists as part of the practice team. In March 2015 the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, jointly with the Royal College of General Practitioners, unveiled proposals for pharmacists to work in GP surgeries. This involves resolving day to day medicine issues, particularly for patients with long term conditions and who are taking a number of different medications, like older people. Rena Amin is one of those pharmacists.

In May this year, NHS England announced a £112m investment in these new roles for pharmacists in GP surgeries. They have committed to enable every practice in England to access a pharmacist across a minimum population on average of 30,000 – leading to an extra 1,500 pharmacists in general practice over the next 5 years.

Another area where we want to see more pharmacist involvement is in care homes; a campaign which is supported by Age UK. There are currently 405,000 care home residents in the UK aged over 65 with approximately 97 per cent being prescribed at least one medicine.

I love my pharmacist award 

Having a pharmacist attached to all care homes leading medicine reviews can improve safety for older people and prevent unnecessary hospital admissions, in addition to saving the NHS £135 million a year.

Pharmacists are willing and able to improve patient care, and we are seeing the NHS recognise more and more the important clinical roles pharmacists can perform. Let’s see this continue.

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society is currently running the I Love My Pharmacist Award highlighting the exceptional contribution pharmacists make to patient care on a daily basis. Public voting to find the Regional Winners is open from 9th June to 21st July.

Visit www.ilovemypharmacist.co.uk to learn more about the about what pharmacists do and how they can support older people.

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