Patient knowledge key to drug safety

The NHS Choices website can play a key role in educating patients on how best to take their medications, according to Sir Muir Gray, the chief knowledge officer to the NHS.

Speaking at the launch of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain's (RPSGB) report on medicines safety in central London last week, Sir Muir said that the simplest way to improve medicines safety was to give patients the information they require.

'At the moment we are not giving people the information they need. Patients could receive emails from NHS Choices offering advice,' he said.

Professor Humphrey Hodgson, vice-president of education and training at the Royal College of Physicians, added: 'NHS Choices is a tool which is under-exploited, people do not know about it.'

But Dr Ian Banks, president of the Men's Health Forum, stressed that it was important for GPs to make sure that the door is always open for patients, especially men who are reluctant to talk about their health, to come back and discuss their medication.

The RPSGB report calls for a five- to 10-year action plan to be drawn up by pharmacists and other healthcare professionals, including GPs, to help improve medicines safety.

Currently, it is estimated that preventable harm from medicines could cost more than £750 million each year in England alone.

The drugs most commonly implicated include NSAIDs, antiplatelets, inhaled corticosteroids and beta-blockers.

The RPSGB report recommends more research into the prescribing, dispensing and administration of medicines.

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