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Pharmacists should work in emergency departments to help tackle winter pressures, NHS says

NHS report suggests ways that pharmacists and pharmacy technicians can be utilised in the acute hospital sector, including medicines optimisation, patient flow emergencies and mental health services. 

Ambulances queue outside of a hospital

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Pharmacists and pharmacy technicians can help maintain resilient, high-quality patient care during an escalating winter workload

Pharmacists should be included in emergency departments and 7-day pharmacy services should be introduced in hospitals to help tackle winter pressures, NHS guidance has said.

 published by NHS England and NHS Improvement, also recommends hospital trusts to train pharmacists as advanced clinical practitioners within emergency portals.

The guidance, developed on behalf of the All England Chief Pharmacist Group, sets out priorities for how pharmacy and medicines optimisation services can help manage winter pressures, including the management of patient flow, weekend and bank holiday services, mental health, and supporting infrastructure. 

Pharmacists and pharmacy technicians can operate as a team across multiple wards, “meeting in daily huddles to identify priority areas for their inputs, and attending board rounds on wards to identify patients prioritised for discharge”, the guidance suggests.

It also says that pharmacist prescribers can provide support “to help expedite safe and accurate discharge summaries and discharge prescriptions”, and that organisations should consider including pharmacist prescribers in their weekend and bank holiday staffing structure.

Other recommendations include pharmacy technicians being used to support the safe use of medicines if a queue develops within the emergency department, and pharmacist practitioners carrying out medicines-focused duties, such as pre-discharge medicines optimisation, medicines reconciliation and acting as an independent prescriber.

In readiness for winter pressures there should be a focus on mental health challenges, such as preparing a list of local mental health pharmacy staff and employing a mental health pharmacist for the winter period, the guidance says.

“Through implementation and embedding these proposals, there will clearly be benefit to patient care throughout the year, and not solely additional resilience over the winter period,” it adds.

Citation: Electronicjuice DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2018.20205697

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