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  • Eight in 10 GPs are not confident their older patients are taking their medicines as prescribed
  • GPs believe more than half of their older patients would benefit from taking fewer medicines
  • Nine in 10 GPs would like more support from community pharmacy

 New research presented in Dispensing Health in Later Life, published today, reveals that eight in 10 GPs (79%) are not confident their older patients, aged over 75 and on more than four medicines, are still taking their medicines correctly six months after consultation; they also believe more than half (50.3%) their patients, over 75 and on more than four medicines, would benefit from taking fewer medicines.

 The research, commissioned by Pharmacy Voice, which represents community pharmacy, also reveals that more than nine in 10 GPs (92%) would like more support from community pharmacy teams to help their patients take their medicines correctly.

On average, 18.7 prescriptions are dispensed per person per year, at a cost of £8.9 billion. Between 35% and 40% of the 5.1 million people[1] aged over 75 take more than four medicines[2]. This number is expected to rise to 6.1 million people by 2020.[3] It is estimated that people over 75 account for at least 45% of the annual prescription cost. Regular medicines reviews have the potential to achieve many millions of pounds of savings, and help reduce the medicines wastage cost of £300 million a year.

The foreword to Dispensing Health in Later Life is supported by key GP and primary care organisation, NHS Alliance and Care England, which represents care homes.

It makes three recommendations.


  • People over 75 and on more than four medicines should have access to regular Medicines Use Reviews (MURs) undertaken by their community pharmacy teams, ideally every six months, and immediately after hospital discharge. The cap on the number of funded MURs should be reviewed and GPs should do more to make patients aware of MURs from community pharmacy.


  • National representative organisations representing general practice and community pharmacy should work together and with some urgency on how to improve collaboration, making sure people are advised by the right health professional, at the right time, and in the right place.


  • There should be greater commitment to improved information sharing.  This should include allowing community pharmacy professionals secure access to both read and add clinical information to people’s summary health care records, with their consent. The Government has committed to providing all community pharmacies read-only access to summary care records by autumn 2017. This should be rapidly followed by secure access to update records with written information, with patient consent.

Professor Rob Darracott, chief executive, Pharmacy Voice:

“Community pharmacy and general practice are increasingly working more closely together, helping relieve some of the extreme pressures on GPs. We would like to develop that collaboration further. More than a third of people over 75 take four or more medicines. Community pharmacy teams are ideally placed to provide regular advice on taking them correctly, help people understand potential side effects, and assess their ongoing efficacy.

“Regular use reviews, for example every six months, could have a significant impact on the quality of people’s lives, reduce hospital admissions and deliver significant savings to the NHS. If regular reviews achieved just one fewer prescription per person per year, this could deliver tens of millions of pounds back to the service, and enrich life for millions of people who could be taking medicines that are no longer needed or not effective.

“Community pharmacy teams can already provide Medicine Use Reviews but awareness is low. In a year’s time, we would like to be in a position where GPs are actively encouraging older people to access their community pharmacy regularly to help with their medicines management and we have reviewed the current cap on medicine use reviews.”

Dr Michael Dixon, chair, NHS Alliance and a Devon GP:

“While there are many reasons why older people need to take a number of medicines, we are nowhere near quantifying the effects of taking multiple medicines concurrently, especially in older patients. Many are confused by the sheer numbers of medicines they have been prescribed, and their health and quality of life is adversely affected when these medicines fail to treat the underlying condition because they are not taken correctly. Community pharmacy teams are well placed to undertake regular medicines use reviews, but the exact delivery must be worked through carefully with general practice colleagues to make sure our older patients aren’t sent round the houses, and are advised by the right health professional, at the right time, and in the right place.”

[1] 2011 Census

[2] Clinical Medication Review: A Practice Guide by NHS Cumbria Medicines Management Team, February 2013

[3] Office National Statistics


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