OBJECTIVE: To evaluate and inform emergency supply of prescription-only medicines by community pharmacists (CPs), including how the service could form an integral component of established healthcare provision to maximise adherence. DESIGN: Mixed methods. 4 phases: prospective audit of emergency supply requests for prescribed medicines (October-November 2012 and April 2013); interviews with CPs (February-April 2013); follow-up interviews with patients (April-May 2013); interactive feedback sessions with general practice teams (October-November 2013). SETTING: 22 community pharmacies and 6 general practices in Northwest England. PARTICIPANTS: 27 CPs with experience of dealing with requests for emergency supplies; 25 patients who received an emergency supply of a prescribed medicine; 58 staff at 6 general practices. RESULTS: Clinical audit in 22 pharmacies over two 4-week periods reported that 526 medicines were requested by 450 patients. Requests peaked over a bank holiday and around weekends. A significant number of supplies were made during practice opening hours. Most requests were for older patients and for medicines used in long-term conditions. Difficulty in renewing repeat medication (forgetting to order, or prescription delays) was the major reason for requests. The majority of medicines were 'loaned' in advance of a National Health Service (NHS) prescription. Interviews with CPs and patients indicated that continuous supply had a positive impact on medicines adherence, removing the need to access urgent care. General practice staff were surprised and concerned by the extent of emergency supply episodes. CONCLUSIONS: CPs regularly provide emergency supplies to patients who run out of their repeat medication, including during practice opening hours. This may aid adherence. There is currently no feedback loop, however, to general practice. Patient care and interprofessional communication may be better served by the introduction of a formally structured and funded NHS emergency supply service from community pharmacies, with ongoing optimisation of repeat prescribing.
- HEALTH SERVICES ADMINISTRATION & MANAGEMENT
- PRIMARY CARE
- QUALITATIVE RESEARCH