A team of academics have calculated that the new medicine service (NMS) could save NHS England around £651 million as a result of increased medicine adherence by patients.
They also suggested that “clinical pharmacists” in GP surgeries could integrate the service into their daily workload.
The study – carried out by a team of researchers from University College London and Universities of Manchester and Nottingham – said NMS will allow patients to enjoy around 278,700 more quality adjusted life years, a long-term measure of disease burden used by health economists.
It added that community pharmacists delivered 5.7 million NMS consultations in seven years between 2011 and 2018. According to PSNC, since the inception of NMS, more than 90 per cent of community pharmacies in England have provided it to their patients.
The service – focused on particular patient groups and conditions – aims to support people taking a new medicine prescribed by their doctor. It offers support over several weeks to use the medicine safely and to best effect.
The service is currently available for people using medicines for asthma, COPD, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes or those taking anticoagulant therapies such as warfarin. However, academics suggest it could be expanded much further to include mental health medicines, eye drops and statins.
Researchers evaluated a 2016 trial, which showed that 11 per cent more patients adhered to their medication regimen after 10 weeks when they used the service. An an extra nine per cent still stuck to the drugs regimen when they used NMS even after 26 weeks.
“The New Medicine Service has proved to be a simple, deliverable intervention which helps patients and saves the NHS money,” said Professor Rachel Elliott, lead researcher from the University of Manchester.
She said “busy community pharmacists” were absorbing the NMS workload into their daily routines “with no extra resources or evidence of reduction in other responsibilities.”
Prof Elliott added: “The results of this longer-term follow-up suggests NMS helps people when the medicine is started, and some effect lasts for quite a long time. However, reviewing medicines-taking, for example every six months, is probably needed to continue the support patients need around taking medicines.
“And we think clinical pharmacists, now often based in primary care doctor’s practices may be able to integrate NMS, and follow-up support, into their role.”
Dr Boyd, Co-project lead from the University of Nottingham, said: “The way patients access healthcare is changing. This work highlights the valuable contribution pharmacists make in protecting valuable NHS budget and improving outcomes for patients.”