Making sure patients get the right medicines
The Pharmacy at St Peter’s is one of the Trust’s larger departments, employing 80 human staff and one robot. It serves all the wards and clinical departments as well as local community hospitals.
Deputy Chief Pharmacist Lisa Jackson says the Department is constantly looking at ways to do things better and give patients the best possible service.
“Few staff really understand the full scope of Pharmacy’s work,” she says. “It is not just dispensing medicines. We have an overarching responsibility - from purchasing the Trust’s drugs right through to how they are actually used by the patients. We are involved in writing the guidelines and training nursing and medical staff .
“Every day is different and we are constantly surprised by the queries we get.”
The need for a rapid turnover of patients to cope with the ever-growing demand presents a constant challenge for the whole Trust and Pharmacy’s ability to deliver drugs to the wards at the right time is vitally important in ensuring a smooth discharge process.
Lisa says: ”Patients today are being treated successfully for conditions which they would not have survived even 20 years ago and in many cases they have multiple conditions which means they are more unwell while they are in hospital and take up more resources.
Drug costs, too, are escalating as the pharmaceutical industry continues to develop new and more expensive treatments.”
The 20 qualified pharmacists are spending more time on the wards, aiming to make sure that patients get the right drugs at the right time and with the right information.
They are working with doctors when they are considering prescribing options and are available to discuss their medication with patients so that, when they go home, they know what medication has been prescribed for them, what it’s for and how to take it.
Safety of medicines is obviously a vital concern and Principal Pharmacist, Fraser Brown, has recently taken on the role of Medicines Safety Officer, aiming to improve the reporting of incidents involving medication.
He explains: “Incidents include cases of omission where the patient doesn’t get their drug or the proper procedure for handling controlled drugs hasn’t been followed. Highlighting these problems will help us to learn what’s gone wrong and improve practice.
“Very often we find that the cause is something simple like checking that the supplier has actually received a faxed order for a particular medicine which, if it is not available, could delay treatments and discharges.”
Chief Pharmacist Annette Arnold outlined the co-operative work already going on with Royal Surrey to develop cancer chemotherapy treatments. A treatment centre is being set up at Ashford Hospital so patients can be treated locally instead of having to go to Guildford or London.
“This collaboration with Royal Surrey has already provided benefits through sharing expertise and knowledge of their electronic prescribing system which we will be adopting. Both Trusts are already benefiting from working together and should result in more innovative ways of working,” she said.
And now you’re wondering where the robot comes in. It is actually a robotic arm controlled by a punched tape and it works, without rest or refreshment, selecting bulk packs of medicines for the wards.