Involving a pharmacist in patient care can deliver improved outcomes for non-hospitalised patients with long-term conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure, according to a comprehensive review of current evidence.
The review of 116 scientific trials, which was presented at the FIP Congress in Glasgow, involved over 40,000 patients and compared pharmacist interventions with the usual care received by patients with long-term conditions, or the same services provided by other healthcare professionals.
It was carried out by University of Bath researchers collaborating with Cochrane, NHS Education Scotland and the Universities of Aberdeen, Brunel, California and Nottingham Trent.
Cochrane reviews are widely recognised as embodying a high standard in evidence-based healthcare.
Looking at care involving pharmacists versus usual care, the researchers found a decisive improvement in outcomes with regard to blood sugar levels and blood pressure.
Patients receiving pharmacist interventions had HbA1C readings 0.8 per cent lower than those receiving usual care, while ‘patients’ blood pressure was about half as likely to be outside target ranges for individuals receiving pharmacist services’.
On other measures, such as hospital admissions and death rates, the effects of pharmacist involvement are “more uncertain” though the “general direction of travel” is promising, the researchers say.
Studies comparing services delivered by pharmacists to other healthcare professionals found no evidence to suggest that the care offered by pharmacists was better or worse, the researchers said.
Professor Margaret Watson from the University of Bath, who led the review, said: “What is really important about this review is that it shows pharmacist services can achieve clinically relevant improvements for patients and could lead to benefits for some long-term conditions, particularly diabetes and high blood pressure. We know that these types of long-term conditions are going to increase as the population ages.
“There has been huge government investment in placing pharmacists in general practices and elsewhere in the NHS. The results of this review indicate that trials of pharmacist services may produce improvements in patient health. As such, future investment in pharmacist services could be informed by the results of this review.”
While pharmacists are “not a panacea,” professor Watson said, “they can increase capability and capacity within the healthcare system and help patients to improve their health.”
The Cochrane researchers said that on the face of the evidence, it is clear pharmacists can make an important contribution to the NHS and support better patient outcomes.