Talking about medicines safety

With less than a month to go until this year’s Ask Your Pharmacist Week, NPA head of communications Stephen Fishwick takes a look at this year’s campaign

Stephen Fishwick

Medicines safety is never far from the mind of a pharmacist, but during this year’s Ask Your Pharmacist Week (November 5-12), we want to encourage patients to think about it too. The theme ‘Let’s talk medicines safety’ is about explaining to patients the risks associated with using medicines inappropriately and encouraging them to talk to the pharmacy team about safe use.

We know that some patients harbour doubts about their medicines, but feel uncomfortable raising them with their doctor or pharmacist. Others think the risks associated with common medicines are exaggerated and could be putting themselves in danger by ignoring professional advice.

In February, the DHSC published an evidence review, which showed that over 200 million errors occur at some point in the medication process in England in one year (across prescribing, dispensing, administering, monitoring and use).

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 decisionmaking and ‘healthy challenge’ – with patients and carers playing a more active role in their medication management and encouraged to raise any concerns about their medication.

That’s why during Ask Your Pharmacist (AYP) Week we will be encouraging patients to:

  • Ask your pharmacist anything at all about your medicines, your health and wellbeing; if it is important to you, it is important to your pharmacy team
  • Check with your doctor or pharmacist anything that is unclear about the explanations or advice they have given you; one way is to repeat what you think the pharmacist means in your own words and ask: is this correct? If you are still uncertain about anything when you get home, call to talk to the pharmacist or visit the pharmacy again
  • 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
  • If you are in the pharmacy to get treatment for a minor ailment, be clear about your symptoms – what exactly are they, how long have you had them, do they affect your daily activities? Answer any questions asked by pharmacy staff accurately and fully, so that they can be sure that the medicine is safe for you and that your symptoms don’t indicate a serious underlying health problem
  • If you want to talk to the pharmacist in more depth about your medicines, ask if you are eligible for one of the free NHS medicines advice services, designed to help you get the most out of your medicines.

Taking part in AYPW can provide evidence of your commitment to patient safety. It gives you a platform to increase appropriate uptake of the NHS medicines advice services available in your pharmacy and will help reinforce the message that community pharmacists are accessible and approachable medicines experts. For more information about AYP Week, visit npa.co.uk/ayp2018

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