Community pharmacists query almost two million prescription items each year, often related to instructions from the prescriber on dose, quantity or strength. Figures released today by Pharmacy Voice, which represents community pharmacy owners, suggest that thousands of people are saved from serious harm by routine prescription checks.
Data from 4,409 pharmacies across England suggest that pharmacists query 2.22 in every 1000 prescription items. They help resolve 43,800 incidents that could potentially result in serious harm without a correct prescription. Incidents most commonly relate to instructions on dose (15%), quantity (13%) or strength (8%). They are typically resolved by a telephone conversation with the prescriber or the practice team.
Pharmacy Voice, which compiled the data, believes this is the first time that community pharmacy’s day-to-day contribution to medicines safety has been measured on such a scale.
Rob Darracott, Chief Executive of Pharmacy Voice, said:
“These data show the value of safety checks carried out in pharmacies, and the importance of information transfer between prescriber, patient and pharmacist. This is not about GPs failing - it is about teamwork in primary care working well. Your local pharmacy works in tandem with doctors to ensure the effective and safe use of medicines.
“This is all in a day’s work for community pharmacies, which check the appropriateness of 900 million prescription items a year. Pharmacies perform a range of vital functions that might lack glamour, and indeed usually go unnoticed, but which are no less important for that.”
“There are millions more pharmacy based interventions that are not related to prescriber instructions so are not captured in our audit data. These include anything from lifestyle advice to making emergency referrals to hospital as well as, of course, supporting people to get the best use from their medicines.”
Mr Darracott added:
“Medicines are the most common health care intervention, and can harm as well as heal. So it should be a given that pharmacists are around the table when decisions about care pathways and NHS investment are taken. Pharmacists should be able to input at all levels within the reformed NHS structures in England.”
Data from two smaller surveys carried out in 2011/12 - one covering Wales – also point to community pharmacy’s vital role in checking prescriptions to ensure patient safety and effective medicines use.
Notes to editors:
Not all incidents involve a change to the prescription. In some cases, a clarification given by the prescriber is sufficient to reassure the pharmacist that the medicine is safe and appropriate to supply
The audit was carried out by pharmacies across England during the final quarter of 2011