My View, Dr Nick Tupper - Avoiding injury and illness

A child using an inhaler.
A child using an inhaler.

Pharmacists are a great source of information and advice for minor health problems and can provide over-the-counter remedies for irritating niggles like coughs and colds. They can also provide a wider role in helping people avoid getting ill or hurt.

At NHS Doncaster Clinical Commissioning Group we’ve been working with local pharmacists on two trial schemes designed to prevent people who are frail or who have long-term chest problems from needing an emergency visit to hospital. One scheme shows people how to use their inhaler properly and the other helps vulnerable people avoid a fall.

The two schemes have been reviewed and have worked so well that we intend to extend them until the end of March 2015 as there are many benefits to be gained.

In Doncaster between April 2013 and February 2014 some 2,049 people were admitted to hospital in an emergency because of injuries caused by falls.

Caring for those affected cost the local NHS nearly £6.5 million. Falls and related injuries have a drastic impact on people’s quality of life and health and can cause disability, loss of independence and social isolation. Those aged 65 and over are at the greatest risk, around one-third of them fall over every year and half of people aged 80 and over also fall at least once a year.

Pharmacists who have had falls prevention training targeted patients aged over 65 who are taking three or more medicines. They took a ‘falls history’ from the patient, checked their balance and identified any medicines that potentially could have any side effects that could cause a fall. Anyone who said they had fallen during the past year was referred to the local specialist falls clinic as a previous fall is the most significant risk factor for a future fall. Pharmacists referred 10 per cent of all the patients they saw to the local falls clinic for further advice and we’re delighted that patient feedback on the scheme has been extremely positive. Similarly, patients have been really pleased with the inhaler training scheme we funded after researchers found that a staggering 95 per cent of people prescribed an inhaler don’t know how to use it properly.

Between April 2013 and February 2014 nearly 1,200 Doncaster people had an emergency admission to hospital because of asthma or chest problems that using an inhaler properly could well have prevented.

Patients who went to their pharmacy to collect a prescription for an inhaled medicine were asked if they would like a consultation with a pharmacist, which involved checking their inhaler technique and correcting it if necessary. At the start of the consultation over 400 patients were found to be using their device incorrectly but by the end over 98 per cent were able to use it properly. Watch a step-by-step guide to what is involved on click here

* Dr Nick Tupper, Chairman, Doncaster clinical commissioning group