Operating a patient medicines helpline: comparing current practice in England to national standards

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Abstract

Abstract:
Focal Points
- The primary aim of this study was to compare current practice to national standards in the operation of patient medicines helplines at NHS Trusts in England.
- The greatest discrepancy between current practice and national standards concerns the promotion of helplines.
- Future research could examine whether changing current practice to meet all of the promotional standards increases the number of helpline calls.

Introduction
Patient medicines helplines appear to be an underused service. The primary aim of this study was to compare current practice to national standards for operating patient medicines helplines1. The standards pertaining to the ‘satisfactory’ level of access, availability, and promotion of helplines were studied, since these seem most likely related to service use. Research questions: (1) What proportion of NHS Trusts provide patients with a medicines helpline? (2) Do NHS Trusts meet national standards for operating a helpline? (3) What do pharmacists consider to be the benefits of helplines?

Method
Two online surveys were developed. Survey 1 was to be completed by pharmacy teams at all acute, mental health, specialist, and community NHS Trusts in England (n = 227; Aim: to answer Research Questions 1-3). Survey 2 was to be completed by Chief Pharmacists at those NHS Trusts which operate helplines, as established from Survey 1 (Aim: to answer Research Question 3). Data were analysed using SPSS.

Results
Response: 89% of Trusts completed Survey 1. The remaining 11% answered whether they operate a helpline. 53% of Trusts which operate a helpline completed Survey 2.
Research Question 1: 52% of NHS Trusts provide patients with access to a helpline (67% acute; 29% mental health; 18% community; 41% specialist).
Research Question 2: 54% of NHS Trusts met all of the standards for a satisfactory level of helpline access. 86% of NHS Trusts met all of the standards for a satisfactory level of helpline availability. 3% of NHS Trusts met all of the standards for a satisfactory level of helpline promotion.
Research Question 3: Major perceived benefits were: avoiding patient harm, identifying errors, improving medication adherence, supporting patient discharge, providing assurance that patients can access professional help from home, improving the patient experience, and optimising medicines.

Discussion
64% of acute and specialist NHS Trusts provide their patients with access to a helpline, which is the same proportion found by the Healthcare Commission in 20071. The greatest discrepancy between current practice and the national standards is regarding the promotion of helplines. The majority of Trusts did not meet all satisfactory standards for the promotion of helplines as a result of not seeking patients’ opinions as to how helplines should be promoted. Future research could examine whether changing current practice to meet all standards pertaining to the promotion of helplines increases the number of calls.

References
(1) Wills S. Medicines helplines for hospital patients: National standards.UK: Royal Pharmaceutical Society; 2014.
(2) Commission for Healthcare Audit and Inspection. The best medicine. The management of medicines in acute and specialist trusts. London: 2007.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 26 Sep 2017
EventUKMi Practice Development Seminar - Birmingham, UK United Kingdom
Duration: 26 Sep 201726 Sep 2017

Conference

ConferenceUKMi Practice Development Seminar
CountryUK United Kingdom
CityBirmingham
Period26/09/1726/09/17

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    Jordan, A., Scott, J., Williams, M., & Jones, M. (2017). Operating a patient medicines helpline: comparing current practice in England to national standards. Poster session presented at UKMi Practice Development Seminar, Birmingham, UK United Kingdom.