A new project that aims to reduce the risk of errors in patient prescriptions is being launched for the first time in Scotland. The Scottish Patient Safety Programme (SPSP) in Primary Care, which is run by Healthcare Improvement Scotland, has been awarded funding of £450,000 over two years from the Health Foundation to run an improvement collaborative to enhance communications between GPs and pharmacists working in primary care.

Research has revealed that up to 5% of prescriptions contain an error, while the potential role pharmacists could play in their local communities in improving patient safety has yet to be fully harnessed.

The project is part of the Health Foundation's Closing the Gap in Patient Safety programme.

Dr Jo Bibby, Director of Strategy at the Health Foundation, said: ‘We are very pleased to support Healthcare Improvement Scotland in this first of its kind collaboration that has potential to play a major role in improving patient safety. We are confident the new programme will be welcomed extremely positively by all within the healthcare sector and will make a valuable contribution in reducing harm to patients in Scotland.’

Jill Gillies, who leads SPSP Primary Care team, said that by forging closer links between primary care settings (typically GP practices) and community pharmacists it is hoped that errors in medicine prescribing can be intercepted and that potential harm to patients can be greatly reduced. She said: ‘Our main aim is to improve and bridge the gap in relations between pharmacists and GPs. We know, for example, that pharmacists are not reliably contacted after a patient is discharged from hospital and yet they have a vital role to play in spotting errors or anomalies in the prescribing of medicines to assist in their ongoing treatment. Under this initiative, the pharmacists would take charge of undertaking accurate and consistent medication monitoring after someone has been discharged from hospital, particularly in terms of high risk medicines. This is a ground-breaking project that aims to strengthen the link between GPs and pharmacists – it clearly demonstrates the commitment of the SPSP Primary Care team to explore innovative new ways to improve patient safety in Scotland. The overall ambition for this improvement collaboration is to reduce harm to anyone in any primary care setting. We hope the programme will eventually spread out nationally.’

The SPSP project is one of only ten selected from more than 100 applicants across the UK and the only Scottish applicant to receive part of the overall £4million of Health Foundation funding.

The £450,000 will allow three NHS boards to test the programme over the next two years.

It is intended that each pilot area will recruit a pharmacy clinical lead, eight pharmacy teams, an acute sector team and two GP practices that will test the various new tools and interventions that have been developed under the programme.

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Mike Findlay, Media Manager
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