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In what is seen as a great support for patients discharged from hospitals, the long-awaited NHS Discharge Medicines Service (DMS) began its operation across community pharmacies in England on Monday (Feb 15).

Over half of English hospitals have already participated in the programme and consequently many community pharmacies are receiving information on their patients’ medicines regimen at discharge from hospital.

Commenting on the commencement of the service, Alastair Buxton, director of NHS Services at PSNC said: “The service will allow community pharmacists and pharmacy technicians to make a real difference by helping their patients with their medicines following discharge from hospital, when confusion with changes to regimens and questions about new treatments can often arise.

“Importantly, the service also provides an opportunity to improve team working across pharmacy, between community, PCN and hospital pharmacy teams, which should support improved patient care and enhance professional satisfaction.”

He further added: “Whilst local TCAM services have laid the groundwork for the DMS in many areas, not all hospitals are ready to make referrals to this new national service just yet. Some NHS Trusts will first need to plan and implement the referral pathway, so rollout is expected to be gradual, with the number of referrals increasing over the year ahead.

“PSNC and NHSE&I will be monitoring referral rates over time to ensure the service is being used optimally.”

This service builds on the work that the Academic Health Science Networks (AHSN) have undertaken with NHS Trusts, Local Pharmaceutical Committees and pharmacy contractors over recent years, as part of the Transfer of Care Around Medicines (TCAM) programme.

Within this programme, the AHSNs worked with NHS hospitals to put in place processes and IT infrastructure to allow hospital clinicians to identify patients admitted to hospital that might benefit from being referred to their community pharmacy at discharge.

Jasmine Shah, head of advice and support services at the National Pharmacy Association, said: “The launch of the Discharge Medicines Service is a welcome development of community pharmacy’s role within the NHS family. It will enhance patient safety and allow for a more seamless patient journey across healthcare settings.

“The NPA has made information and resources available to support our members in providing the service, including an overview, action plan/checklist and template Standard Operating Procedure.”

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