Polypharmacy: Getting the balance right
We know that medicines can, and do, improve the lives of millions of people. We also know that as more and more people live longer, often with more long-term health problems, the number of medicines they take can increase.
This can result in people taking medicines they don’t need or want; sometimes referred to as inappropriate polypharmacy, or over-prescribing. Unfortunately, this can lead to more harm than benefit for some patients, simply by making it too hard for them to take their medicines as intended, or even resulting in things like falls or admission to hospital.
As highlighted by Dr Keith Ridge CBE in his 2021 report from the National Overprescribing Review, ‘Good for you, good for us, good for everybody’, overprescribing is a complex issue, involving systems and culture as well as individuals, and tackling it needs a system-wide response, with clinicians and patients both receiving more support to ensure the NHS is getting prescribing right.
I’m a project manager in the Innovation Agency Patient Safety and Care Improvement Team, working specifically on medicines safety and optimisation programmes, and I’d like to let you know about a national improvement programme that will make a real difference to patients here in the North West Coast.
This national campaign is aimed at helping prescribers across our region tackle some of that inappropriate polypharmacy and ‘get the balance right’. We will do that by supporting primary healthcare colleagues to identify those patients most at risk of harm from inappropriate polypharmacy; increase education, training and skills through targeted action learning sets; and provide a safe environment where like-minded people can share their knowledge and learn from each other in a dedicated community of practice. This approach will ensure that individual patients most at risk from inappropriate polypharmacy throughout our region can be supported to make shared decisions about the medicines they take and achieve a positive outcome.
Our community of practice will start in the autumn and we’ll be confirming the dates of those meetings very soon. In the meantime we’re launching the programme in the North West Coast with a webinar on 5th of July. We’ve got a range of excellent expert and inspirational local and national speakers lined up so be sure to sign-up, I look forward to seeing you!
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