Pharmacy professionals’ experiences and perceptions of providing NHS patient medicines helpline services: A qualitative study

Matt Williams, Abbie Jordan, Jenny Scott, Matthew Jones

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (SciVal)


Background: Patient medicines helpline services (PMHS) have been established at some National Health Service (NHS) Trusts in England, with the aim of providing medicines-related support to patients after they have been discharged. Addressing an important knowledge gap, this qualitative study sought to examine pharmacy professionals’ experiences and perceptions of their PMHS, including perceived benefits of the service, and areas for improvement.

Methods: Invitations to participate were sent to all NHS Trusts within England that were known to provide a PMHS (n = 117). Semi-structured interviews were conducted via telephone with thirty-four pharmacy professionals who provide a PMHS (female = 76%, male = 24%; predominantly from Acute NHS Trusts, 76%). Interviews were audio-recorded and transcribed verbatim. The RE-AIM framework for evaluating interventions (RE-AIM: Reach, Effectiveness, Adoption, Implementation, Maintenance) informed the development of the interview schedule and the analysis of the data using framework analysis.

Results: Two themes were generated from the analysis: Resources, and Perceived benefits. Findings illustrate how providing a PMHS with limited resources (e.g., no specific funding, understaffed) impacts upon the implementation, maintenance and reach of PMHS, and the ability to evidence their effectiveness. Despite operating with limited resources, PMHS are considered to have many benefits for patients and healthcare organisations (e.g., providing a ‘safety net’ to patients during the transfer of care period, providing reassurance to patients, helping to optimise patients’ medicines, resolving medicines-related errors, reducing the burden upon other services, and providing the potential to improve hospital services based upon the content of enquiries). However, actually establishing the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of PMHS is challenging due to perceived logistical difficulties of collecting data, and the difficulty measuring hard outcomes (e.g., prevention of readmissions).

Conclusions: PMHS are typically perceived to be under-resourced, although they are considered by pharmacy professionals to have several benefits for service users and NHS Trusts. For those sites that provide a PMHS, we recommend using enquiry data to improve hospital services, and to share ideas for implementing and maintaining a PMHS within a resource-limited context. High-quality research is needed to evidence the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of PMHS, which may help to secure adequate resources for this service in the future.
Original languageEnglish
Article number364
JournalBMC Health Services Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 29 Apr 2020


  • patient medicines helplines
  • National Health Service
  • medicines information
  • Drug information
  • Hospital pharmacy
  • medicines-related errors
  • medication errors
  • Qualitative
  • framework analysis
  • RE-AIM


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