Patients who have recently been discharged from hospital will get greater support from local pharmacy teams to manage their medicines.
From July, hospitals will be able to digitally refer patients who would benefit from extra guidance around newly prescribed medicines to their community pharmacy.
A spokesman for the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said the NHS Discharge Medicines Service will help patients get the maximum benefits from new medicines they’ve been prescribed by giving them the opportunity to ask questions to pharmacists and ensuring any concerns are identified as early as possible.
A recent audit of NHS hospital discharges showed that 79% of patients were prescribed at least one new medication after being discharged from hospital. New prescriptions can sometimes cause side effects, or interact with existing treatments, potentially leading to readmission.
Research by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) shows that people over 65 are less likely to be readmitted to hospital if they’re given help with their medication after discharge.
Previous local schemes around the country have demonstrated that patients who see their community pharmacist after they’ve been in hospital are less likely to be readmitted and will experience a shorter stay if they are.
The new service will help meet the World Health Organization’s (WHO) goal to reduce severe avoidable harm from medicines by 50% by 2022.
Health and social care secretary Matt Hancock said: ‘I want all patients to get the right care close to home, and to avoid any unnecessary visits to hospital.
‘To help do that I’ve begun the Pharmacy First programme, asking pharmacies to do more to support people in the community, as they do in other countries like France. It’s good for patients and great for the NHS because it reduces pressure on GPs and hospitals.
‘These new services will help strengthen what community pharmacists can do, helping interrelation with General Practice and hospitals, and help them deliver safer, more efficient patient care right across the NHS.
‘This new contract bolsters the enhanced role highly-skilled pharmacists are playing in preventing ill health and helping us to stay well in our communities.’
Bruce Warner, NHS England deputy chief pharmaceutical officer, said: ‘Preventing ill health is a key part of the NHS Long Term Plan and over the next year we will introduce the new Discharge Medicines Service to help people most in need of support with their medication, as well as begin to test a variety of new measures to identify people with undiagnosed conditions.
‘This will make even better use of the valuable and extensive clinical skills of community pharmacists so that people can ‘walk in’ and get the health advice and help they need, providing an excellent foundation on which we can build for the future.’
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