The 2004 ‘Making it Better’ strategy has been refreshed to provide a clear direction for the delivery of pharmacy services in the community which places the individual at the centre and aims to optimise their health and wellbeing throughout life.
The refreshed 5 year strategy entitled Making it Better Through in Pharmacy in the Community was launched by the Minister of Health, Social Services and Public Safety, Mr Edwin Poots, on 26th March 2014. The direction of this strategy lies not only in the dispensing and supply of medicines, but also in the provision of advice, information and services to help people gain better outcomes from their medicines and live healthier lives.
The strategy is divided into 4 chapters:
1. Helping people to gain better outcomes from medicines
2. Helping people to live longer, healthier lives
3. Helping people to safely avail of care closer to home
4. Helping people to benefit from advances in treatment and technology
This chapter aims to ensure timely access to safe, quality assured medicines is maintained. When medicines are supplied to people, either on prescription or over-the-counter, they should be provided with reliable, evidence-based and accessible information. Between a half and a third of medicines prescribed for long term conditions are not taken as recommended.
Community pharmacists should optimise the health benefits of medicines by supporting improved adherence, particularly to their regular patients who are receiving repeat prescriptions. All medicines can cause side-effects which can be serious. Community pharmacists can help reduce harm related to medicines.
The risks associated with medicines are increased during transitions between care settings, so an increased role for community pharmacists in reviewing medicines both pre-admission and post-discharge could assist in safer and more efficient transitions. It is estimated that medicines waste in Northern Ireland costs £18 million per year. Community pharmacists should have a more active role in reducing medicines waste through supporting improved adherence, addressing the over-ordering of medicines on repeat prescription and using the repeat dispensing scheme which will be supported and enhanced through the development of an electronic version.
This section of the strategy encourages the provision of advice and support from community pharmacists in supporting public health, self-management, improving health and well-being and preventing illness. Community pharmacists are front line advocates of public health and can be utilised to deliver health promotion, protection and screening services through community pharmacies.
Community pharmacists can signpost and refer people to other health and social care services and support people to manage their own health. Pharmacies have an important role to play within the communities, in which they exist, linking with other health, community and voluntary groups, to target hard to reach groups that do not routinely access services.
Chapter three outlines developing community pharmacy roles to provide improved care for patients at home. Advances in technology will enable clinics to be held within the community pharmacy setting as the pharmacist will be able to access the patient’s clinical record. This will improve the access to enhanced services for patients. This chapter also outlines the role for community pharmacy in managing transitions between care settings to improve patient care. Pharmacists should be integrated into the care team, particularly in managing patients with long term conditions. This includes the incorporation of the community pharmacy role into care pathways that will facilitate the co-ordination and integration of care. The community pharmacy role should be embedded within a contract that is underpinned by a robust IT infrastructure.
The final chapter aims to support better health outcomes for patients through advances in treatments, technologies, products and services. It is essential that an ICT infrastructure is developed and implemented for community pharmacy to support an increased clinical role for community pharmacists and improve communication between care settings to deliver improved patient outcomes. ICT developments should also help improve quality assurance and governance of pharmaceutical care.