On 13 December 2018 members from across the West of England came together for our first event to address the complex issue of polypharmacy. Attendees represented our three STPs and came from community pharmacy, acute trust pharmacy teams, CCG pharmacy teams and primary care.

Polypharmacy is a complex issue and affects all levels of society, which describes people being prescribed many medicines at the same time. Polypharmacy is not necessarily a bad thing; however it needs to be appropriate for the individual patient.

The event was particularly timely following an announcement by Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care on 8 December ordering a review focussing on patients who take multiple medicines, to ensure patients are receiving the most appropriate treatment for their needs.

The workshop provided the opportunity for delegates to:

  • share and learn from current ‘best practice’ examples
  • identify opportunities and barriers to appropriate polypharmacy
  • inform polypharmacy priorities for 2019-20 across West of England
  • identify how the West of England AHSN can support

Dr Rupert Payne, Consultant Senior Lecturer in Primary Health Care at University of Bristol joined us to give an academic perspective. Rupert informed delegates that one of the gaps in the evidence base on the subject of appropriate polypharmacy was the lack of evidence on the benefits of de-prescribing.

We heard a moving story from one of our patients who suggested health care professionals should undertake regular medicine reviews to ensure patients can manage and understand their medicines better and don’t remain on medicines they don’t need.

The workshop was instrumental in establishing the focus for our polypharmacy programme. Our overall aim is to reduce harm to patients by enabling better identification of inappropriate polypharmacy. Within this, our stakeholders identified four main themes:

  • Patient empowerment
  • Improved communication across the system
  • Incorporating an understanding of the risks of over-medication in training and education programmes of all staff
  • Patient communication

The next steps will be to formalise our offers with our local stakeholders, so watch this space.

Posted on February 18, 2019

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