Nine in ten people agree that talking with a pharmacist will “help you get the most from your medicines and minimises your risk of harm,” according to new research by the National Pharmacy Association.
Yet many people harbour doubts about their medicines, and find it difficult to raise concerns with their doctor or pharmacist. A patient advocate in Leeds recently told me, in a memorable phrase, that people often “leave the consultation room with the real issue still in their back pocket”.
That’s why the theme of Ask Your Pharmacist Week (AYP), which runs from November 5 to 12, is ‘Let’s talk medicines safety’, with the emphasis on let’s talk. It’s about encouraging conversations between patients and health care professionals that are full, frank and empowering.
In February, the Department for Health and Social Care published its Report of the Short Life Working Group on Reducing Medication Related Harm. Alongside this was an evidence review which showed that over 200 million medication errors occur at some point in the medication process in England in one year (across prescribing, dispensing, administering, monitoring and use). Six per cent of emergency re-admissions to hospital are caused by Adverse Drug Reactions (ADRs). The estimated cost to the NHS of definitely avoidable ADRs is £98.5million per year.
The report identified one of the contributing factors to be sub-optimal communication between patients and healthcare professionals. In particular, more needs to be done to promote joint decision-making and ‘healthy challenge’ - with patients and carers playing a more active role in their medicines management, and being comfortable enough to raise any concerns about their medication.
A key message during Ask Your Pharmacist Week is: if you think the medicines you have been supplied with, or the advice and instructions that have come with them, are not right for you, say so. A good doctor or pharmacist will not be offended and should welcome the opportunity to reassure you, clarify information, or discuss alternatives. Another message is, feel free to ask your pharmacist anything at all about your medicines, your health and wellbeing. To be safe, it is better to reveal too much information than not enough, so bring up problems even if your doctor or pharmacist hasn’t asked about them. We are also reminding people with long term conditions that they might be eligible for one of the free of charge NHS medicines advice services in pharmacies – such as Medicines Use Reviews – designed to help you get the most out of your medicines.
The World Health Organisation aims to reduce medicines related harm globally by 50%. Please play your part in reaching that ambitious target by supporting the Let’s talk medicines safety initiative. There will be lots for you to share on social media during the week – we’ll be using #talkmeds and #askyourpharmacist.
For more information about the campaign, please email me on firstname.lastname@example.org