The World Health Organisation has highlighted the irrational use of medicines as a major problem worldwide. It estimates that more than half of all medicines are prescribed, dispensed or sold inappropriately, and that half of all patients fail to take them correctly.
Why are we doing it?
Problematic polypharmacy is used to describe when people experience problems either in the number of medicines that they are taking or clinical challenges around the combination of medicines that they are taking, or both. As we are living longer with more chronic and long-term diseases, it is becoming increasingly common for people to experience problematic polypharmacy. Polypharmacy simply means many medicines on a long-term basis and problematic polypharmacy is an ongoing and growing challenge for the NHS.
The AHSN Polypharmacy Programme aims to support local systems and primary care to identify patients at potential risk of harm and support better conversations about medicines by promoting shared decision making - where clinicians and patients are equal partners in agreeing which medicines are important to treatment and life goals alike.
The three pillars of the polypharmacy programme have been developed to reflect our areas of focus.
Pillar 1: Population Health Management
Using data (NHSBSA Polypharmacy Comparators) to understand PCN risks and identify patients for prioritisation for a structured medication review (SMR).
Pillar 2: Education & Training
Running local polypharmacy Action Learning Sets (ALS) to upskill the primary care workforce to be more confident about stopping unnecessary medicines. ALS model originally developed and piloted by Wessex AHSN and supported by Health Education England (HEE).
Pillar 3: Public Behaviour Change
Testing a range of public-facing materials to change public perceptions of a "pill for every ill" and encourage patients to open up about medicines. E.G. Me and My Medicines, Are your medicines working for you? and 5 moments of medication.
Polypharmacy Community of Practice (CoP)
National Polypharmacy Action Learning Sets (ALS)
The Polypharmacy ALS is an evidence-based learning model developed by Wessex AHSN in partnership with Health Education England. The aim is to help GPs, pharmacists and other healthcare professionals who undertake prescribing, medication reviews and de-prescribing on a regular basis, to understand the complex issues surrounding stopping inappropriate medicines safely. They will also help PCNs deliver the Medicines Optimisation elements of the Directed Enhanced Services and Investment and Impact Fund contracts and meet recommendation 18 of the National Overprescribing Review report.
To drive and accelerate changes in practice, delegates complete a quality improvement project to address problematic polypharmacy in their workplace. These quality improvement poster summaries from previous ALS sessions can be viewed on our polypharmacy QI posters page.
For all future polypharmacy events click here