Polypharmacy: supporting patients with their medicines

In England, the NHS primary care system dispenses over 1 billion prescription items every year. As more people live longer with multiple long-term health conditions, the number of medicines they take often increases. This can create a significant burden for the person trying to manage multiple medicine regimes, and in some cases it can cause harm.

Polypharmacy is also one of the key themes of the World Health Organisation’s Global Patient Safety Challenge. They are aiming to reduce severe avoidable medication related harm by 50% globally over five years from 2017 to 2022.

Support your patients to understand their medicines

Launched in April 2022, The Health Innovation Network National 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. The programme is based on three core principles: 

  • Population health management (Pillar 1) Using data (NHSBSA polypharmacy prescribing comparators) to understand population health risks and support prioritisation of patients for a structured medication review.  
  • Education and training (Pillar 2) – Running local Polypharmacy Action Learning Sets (ALSs) to upskill the primary care workforce to be more confident about stopping unnecessary medicines.  
  • Public behaviour change (Pillar 3) – The testing and evaluation of public-facing materials to challenge and change public perceptions of prescribing and encourage patients to open up about medicines. 

Below you will find a selection of materials to download, which will help you discuss improved medicines management with your patient at your next structured medication review (SMR).

Structured medication reviews (SMRs) are organised, professional frameworks which prompt discussion between health practitioner and patient, to help ratify problematic medicines and deliver a holistic approach to health care. Having patient-approved materials that can support shared decision-making is incredibly helpful in reducing the possibility of harm caused by polypharmacy.

Catherine CaldwellInnovation Manager - Medicines Optimisation

Download these patient-approved Polypharmacy materials and use in your next Structured Medication Review

Are your medicines working PDF

Action Learning Sets

Find out more about the national polypharmacy Action Learning Sets and how you can register

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