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Community Pharmacy Patient Safety Collaborative: Safety Initiatives

14 Jun

Chui Cheung photo

My name is Chui Cheung, working as a community pharmacist in Wigan, Lancashire.  I joined the NIHR Greater Manchester PSTRC Community Pharmacy Patient Safety Collaborative Study with the University of Manchester in November 2015.  Looking back, it was curiosity that led to my participation and I was worried how I would handle the research projects.  Nevertheless, the title of patient safety attracted me to find out more.

Patient safety is at the centre of our everyday tasks whether we are pharmacists, technicians, dispensers, medicine counter assistants or other members of the team. Whatever we do in the course of our work, we must do it safely.

At the start of the first year project, there were 8 to 10 pharmacists with a range of different working backgrounds and age groups.  We attended a full day session every 4 to 6 weeks at the University.  We were relieved to discuss openly and share our experience on patient safety.  The aim was to build a safety case using our working environment and team resources.  My project centred on dispensing safety: ‘Are we dispensing safely?’ and later on was refined to a quantitative safety incident claim.

We were introduced to specific tools: Hierarchial Task Analysis (HTA), Failure Mode and Effect Analysis (FMEA), System Human Error Reduction & Production Approach (SHERPA) to help our analysis of the safety profile. Our team broke down the complex dispensing tasks into smaller working steps or processes systematically. On a practical application, the Proactive Risk Monitoring (PRIMO) questionnaire was helpful to use as a team to identify various patient safety risk factors.  We then made risk assessments of the dispensing processes through the SHERPA and used Plan, Do, Study, Act (PDSA) cycles to evaluate improvement.

The whole team began to monitor and record near misses and dispensing incidents on a more conscious level than before and made voluntary changes towards an open, no-blame working culture. The goal of safer dispensing became a number one priority all the times.  The team’s brainstorming revealed many common triggers or events of ‘the vulnerable moment’ during the dispensing processes.  Several checking procedures were used as checker reminders.

The pooled data of errors showed high times of errors, typical error categories and even the common medicines.  Individually, we were able to find out when and how we perform best and made aware of the pitfalls.  We discovered that we were prone to errors particularly when we were ‘expected’ to have ultra-quick dispensing.  Through a member’s suggestion and our dispenser’s effort, we now display a shop poster giving a summary of ‘the way we prepare your medicines’ and give customers opportunities to read through the additional copies whenever there is a queue forming.  It works really well and the feedback is positive too.  The team and customers seem happier.

In year 2 of the project, we came across analytical tools (Faulty Tree Analysis, Bowtie diagram) to look at our safety claim.  We continued to expand our safety interests and used a more sophisticated reporting form called  ‘Incident Investigation Form’ which covers error description, the factors causing the error, the risk category, course of the event and improvement plans.   We have since modified the form for in-house use.  The bundle of safety data showed how we had been dispensing safely or otherwise.  As a result, we implemented a couple of measures (such as safety shelf reminders, Top 20 common error medicines list) to help us improve on a regular basis.  The data is also useful in staff appraisal.

Moreover, we felt fortunate to have the ready-made patient safety data for Quality Payment application.  My experience in the patient safety collaborative has been overwhelmingly good and positive.  I wouldn’t have known about these analytical methods and thought about the improvement plans if I hadn’t been part of the study group.

I recommend that any pharmacy team who is interested should come along for a taster session to see if this is right for you.

Introducing…Safer Care Transitions

1 Jun

by Justin Waring (University of Nottingham) and Harm van Marwijk (University of Manchester)

Safer Care Transitions will be one of the research themes in the NIHR PSTRC Greater Manchester which will run from 1 August 2017 until 31 July 2022.

Safer Care Transitions blog icon

Patient journeys are full of care transitions. By transitions, we mean that the responsibility for patient care is transferred or handed over from one team, department or organisation to another.

If we think about someone who experiences an accident at work, they might be seen at first by a paramedic before being transported by ambulance to their local hospital’s emergency department. There they might receive urgent care before being admitted into the hospital for follow-up care. When recovered, the patient will then be discharged home or to community setting where they could receive rehabilitation, nursing care, social care and follow-up treatments by their GP, under the primary medical responsibility of the GP.  The GPs’ medical records can follow most of such transitions and provide an overarching view, but others (patients) cannot access such data now. GPs would be seen to have an overarching responsibility to facilitate seamless management between settings but little work has been done on this.

Transitions are common to virtually all patient journeys, because healthcare services are provided by specialists and professionals who work in different clinics, surgeries and hospitals. Although there is now better understanding of what makes for safer care within each of these care settings, there is less of a clear picture about what makes for safer care transitions between these care settings, and how to develop problem-based records that capture transitions and are accessible to more than GP practices.

There is mounting evidence from around the world that care transitions are a high-risk stage in the patient journey. Research from the US, for example, suggests that as many as two out of every ten hospital discharges will experience some form of safety incident. These safety incidents take the form of incorrect medicines, missing equipment, or inappropriate care planning.  Research within the NHS suggests that it is often difficult to coordinate the involvement of different professionals and specialists because of common communication breakdowns and the difficulties of finding time to work together to identify solutions to common problems or work from a shared and validated record. A recent Healthwatch report highlighted the enormous suffering and anxiety experienced by patients as they approach hospital discharge, often because of the uncertainties about when they will go home, who will look after them, and how they will cope. Current resources constraints within the health and social care sectors have seemed to make these problems worse, with limits on the availability of social care to support safe hospital discharge.

The Patient Safety Translational Research Centre Greater Manchester is leading a programme of research that will develop new learning about what makes for safer care transitions. It will look to ways of working and technological breakthroughs in other sectors to learn lessons for the NHS. For example, many courier and supply chain services use advanced technologies to track their deliveries. There is also greater scope to empower patients to coordinate their own care through developing smart technologies that enable them to manage and share their own records with different healthcare professionals. There is also much healthcare services could learn from other industries about ensuring continuous accountability for care, so that someone is always there to speak up for and protect the safety of patients, and ways to develop such support for the most vulnerable trajectories such as around cancer and frail older people.

The projects developed in this theme will address the safety of care transitions in primary and secondary care, in mental health services, in chronic conditions, cancer care, and end of life care, to ensure learning and innovations are shared across the health and social care sectors.

Further information:

Healthwatch (2016) Safely Home, London: Healthwatch.

Waring, J., Bishop, S., & Marshall, F. (2016). A qualitative study of professional and carer perceptions of the threats to safe hospital discharge for stroke and hip fracture patients in the English National Health Service. BMC health services research, 16(1), 297.

Forster, A. J., Murff, H. J., Peterson, J. F., Gandhi, T. K., & Bates, D. W. (2003). The incidence and severity of adverse events affecting patients after discharge from the hospital. Annals of internal medicine, 138(3), 161-167.

Keep taking the tablets, part two – The medical practitioners side

25 Apr

by Max Scott

Part eight of the blog series ‘The desperate fight to be heard, and supported, when living with the invisible struggles of Multimorbidity’

Introduction to the blog series is here.


In part one of this blog looking at the complications of taking regular multiple medications, I described some of the problems faced by the patient, in this case, myself!  But, of course, it makes it very difficult for doctors and specialists to treat me for a specific condition when there are so many other things to be taken into account; trying to make sure that, in treating one condition, it does not aggravate another, and that any medications given to me do not interact in a negative, or at worst dangerous, way with anything else I am taking.

I make a point, before I see a specialist, either whom I have not seen before or who may need reminding, to type up a comprehensive list of all the medications I take, both regularly and intermittently, to hopefully make their task that little bit easier in knowing what they can and can’t prescribe me, mainly in terms of what drug might interact with another in any way, and the vast majority are very grateful for this (NOT ALL!), and tell me so. I like to help them to help me whenever I can, and I make this clear; I feel that is showing equal commitment.

There are a few who virtually ignore my notes, not taking into account the effort and care I put into preparing in this way. There are certain doctors that I see, who purely try to do their best for me, while realising my situation makes me a “complex” patient, and therefore they try their hardest to “tailor” my treatment so it does not compromise anything else, and I fully appreciate the difficult job they have in doing this; there are others who seem untroubled by the situation and just “get on with it” as it were, hopefully knowing that how they will treat me will have no bearing on anything else.

Then – very recently – I had the perfect example of the flip side of things, when not only does the practitioner, who I had only met on two previous occasions, not appreciate my list, but positively rolls it up and batters me around the head with it! (Not literally, but they may as well have…). My wife and I explained that my overall level of health and fatigue had, if anything, taken rather a knock since I last saw him. His reaction was to take one look at my long list of medications and say “Well, if I was on these, I wouldn’t even be able to do my job”, insinuating that my condition was caused BECAUSE I take so many tablets. A rude and belittling verbal attack from somebody who immediately dismissed my whole medical history in one uninformed and disinterested put-down.  Any medical practitioner doing their job properly by taking a genuine interest in their patient, would NEVER make such a flippant remark – each of my medications has been given to me for a reason; reasons which this person neither had the time or inclination to go into and yes – the list IS long – and so is the list of conditions they are given to me for – that is what MULTIMORBIDITY is!

But, all the while, there is no kind of ANY facility, service or specialist for, or indeed seemingly with much knowledge of, multimorbidity in my area, and more than likely many other areas of the UK; this does nobody – neither doctor or patient – any favours at all.

NIHR Greater Manchester PSTRC Meet the Team – Paolo Fraccaro

10 Apr

The sixth in our NIHR Greater Manchester PSTRC ‘Meet the Team’ series introduces Paolo Fraccaro, Research Associate and former NIHR Greater Manchester PSTRC PhD student

Paolo Fraccaro_Meet the Team

Paolo Fraccaro_Meet the Team_v1

James Hind, member of the Community Pharmacy Patient Safety Collaborative, scoops Clinical Excellence Award at Superdrug’s annual Awards Ceremony

23 Feb

by Penny Lewis, Medication Safety theme


James Hind, pharmacist and member of the Greater Manchester Community Pharmacy Patient Safety Collaborative, scooped the Clinical Excellence Award at Superdrug’s Annual Awards ceremony in Heathrow last week. The ceremony which aims to celebrate employees’ successes and achievements also marked 25 years of Superdrug Pharmacy. Other awards included Nurse of Year, Operational Excellence Award and Pharmacist of the Year (for which James was also nominated). James was awarded this honour after being recognised for his outstanding contribution to patient safety as part of his work with the Community Pharmacy Patient Safety Collaborative.

James, who has undergone training in risk assessment techniques and incident analysis as part of the collaborative, has shared his learning across the company via their online ‘Hub’. One of James’ innovations has been the design and production of bag labels to prompt both staff and patients to check their medications or ask any questions before leaving the pharmacy. James has conducted a survey to explore patients’ views of the label which has shown that the label is well received by patients and can, in some cases, prompt patients to take a more proactive approach to checking. James hopes to evaluate the impact of the label on patient safety incidents over the next few months.

James’s passion for improving patient safety engendered by his work with the collaborative has inspired James to work more closely with Superdrug’s Safety Office and also suggest improvements to their incident reporting system. James also noted that error reporting has increased threefold as a result of his participation in the collaborative and that his team are now far more reflective of their practice when things go wrong.

Well done James!

Read James Hind’s blog post on his involvement with the Community Pharmacy Patient Safety Collaborative here

NIHR Greater Manchester PSTRC Meet the Team – Rebecca Hays

24 Oct

The sixth in our NIHR Greater Manchester PSTRC ‘Meet the Team’ series introduces Rebecca Hays, Research Associate in Multimorbidity theme




Read my notes…please?

20 Sep

by Max Scott

Part seven of the series ‘The desperate fight to be heard, and supported, when living with the invisible struggles of Multimorbidity’

Introduction to the blog series is here.


In my last blog, called “Keep taking the tablets: part one”, I tried to explain some of the difficulties I have faced in having to take multiple medications. Part Two will be based on the difficulties faced by medical professionals when having to treat such a complex patient as myself, without any training in multimorbidity it seems.

But for now, here is a perfect example, and my latest experience, of the main theme of all my blogs: Getting others to listen to, and trust what you say as the patient.

A few months ago, I was in hospital for an operation on my leg. It was a hospital that I had not been to before, that specialised in the treatment I was due to have. The staff were excellent. One doctor, seeing the comprehensive notes I had typed up, as usual before I have a hospital admission, said they ‘were excellent’ and ‘so helpful’. It really lifted my morale because I had been laid up in there for over a week. But, as we know from my previous posts, it only takes one. That person arrived in the form of a physiotherapist. Here is an excerpt of the complaint letter I wrote to the hospital:

“It was the afternoon, sometime beyond 2pm I think, and I had just drifted off to sleep…when one of the physios arrived at my bedside. She wanted me to get up and do the “stair test”. I explained that I had just gone off to sleep. “Oh I’ll come back in a while, when you’ve had your downtime”, I believe she said. I explained to her that it was not like that; [because of my other conditions] I was likely to be asleep for around two hours, and that when I woke up, my mind would be very disorientated for quite a while. She did not accept this, clearly had no interest in my overall health, was argumentative, dismissive, insulting, and sarcastic.

The physio was clearly put out: “Well what do you do in the afternoon at home if you want to go to the toilet?” (Immediately, I knew she was trying to catch me out; neither pleasant or professional) I told her “I am in such a deep sleep in the afternoon that wouldn’t happen”. As I realised that I was, in fact, being challenged, I thought back to the support of the Doctor I mentioned earlier. I said that the Doctor had spoken to me, had read my details, and had made clear that I would be given time to get well enough to go home. I told her that he had said it would be possibly Monday but probably Tuesday that I would be going home, she did a dismissive laugh and said “Oh no, it doesn’t work like that…we hardly ever listen to the doctors anyway”. I was really shocked by that last comment. “Who was this Doctor, anyway?”, she continued, looking at me with more and more disdain as I lay there feeling awful in my hospital bed because my brain was desperately telling me I needed to sleep. I told her I couldn’t remember his name. Around this stage she went away to talk to somebody (no idea who, but there was certainly no apology when she got back). Having returned, she said that the porter would come for me around five o’clock to take me and a physio to do the stair test. This was then my turn to make clear that it didn’t work like that. I told her that I would try my best, but I may still be too woozy to do the test. “Well he will just have to go away again, won’t he?”, she snapped. I actually remarked to her at this stage that she was getting cross with me. She somehow, of course, denied it. I pointed to the notes I had typed that had been such a help to many during my stay, she briefly picked them up, had a quick look…but did not read them. I have been underlining the word “read”, because it makes such a difference if my notes are actually read properly; I have worked hard on them, so as to explain all. What really did it for me, though, was one of the next comments. “Some physios would be even stricter than me” she said, or words to that effect. I’d naturally had enough by then, feeling appalling, having a nurse with me trying to check my health, and having my integrity brought into question. I verbally let out my despair to her, saying the following: “What good would it be for a strict physio, or anybody, to demand that I try to walk up and down a set of stairs while part of my brain is wishing to close down?”. I would think that at least half the ward heard me, and she left soon after. I am not a person who goes around picking faults where my care is concerned, but I knew that the way I was treated and spoken to on that day in your ward, so soon after surgery, feeling so unwell – I was also being treated for low oxygen levels at that stage – should in no way go unreported.”

The “incident” is now being investigated. The fact that the physiotherapist had no interest in reading my medical notes speaks for itself…a multimorbidity patient has to be treated as a whole, otherwise there could be danger to the patient. I believe this MUST be enforced, as soon as possible.

The title of the re-introduction to my blog posts in a Greater Manchester PSTRC newsletter was “Trust Me, I’m a Patient!”. It seems this is still not happening, at least in a great many cases, and of course this can be pivotal to the overall health of those patients by their wishes going unheeded. My experience is a perfect example. As a result, I felt very unwell because my sleep had been interrupted, I was upset and angry at being treated like a hypochondriac, and, of particular relevance to these blogs, it felt soul destroying – not only do we have no specialist multimorbidity care, but even when one takes the trouble to write information to guide the medical professionals, some, like the example above, cannot be bothered to read it.

I have since been treated for a relapse of my clinical depression. Who knows what part in that was played by the physiotherapists attitude…and, what’s more, how many other patients with similar problems experience the same kind of thing, but, unlike me, do not get the chance to talk about, and share, their experiences, forcing them to perhaps either bottle it up, or give up even mentioning their invisible conditions, all this to the detriment of their health…just because there are medical professionals out there who will not believe, trust…