Polypharmacy

Published on 22 August 2022

About the programme

As part of the AHSN Polypharmacy Programme: getting the balance right WMAHSN are supporting health care professionals to identify patients at potential risk from polypharmacy and to support better conversations about medicines.

What is the problem we’re addressing?

We dispense over 1 billion prescription items per year in primary care in England.

Polypharmacy simply means many medicines. As more people live longer with multiple long-term conditions, the number of medicines they often take increases. This can have a significant burden on the person managing and trying to adhere to multiple medicines regimes and can also be harmful.

Studies have shown that that over 50% of older people are prescribed a medicine with more harm than benefit, leading to avoidable morbidity, hospitalisation and mortality. In England, in February 2022, there were 876,317 people on 10 or more medicines and 349,653 were 75 or over. A person taking 10 or more medicines is 300% more likely to be admitted to hospital.  Polypharmacy adds preventable costs to the healthcare system and diminishes quality of care for the patient. The most deprived areas tend to have the most issues around polypharmacy, also making this a health inequality issue.

Most of the harm from polypharmacy is preventable.

What are the outcomes we are trying to achieve?

Successful delivery of the programme within the West Midlands AHSN will result in:

  • A regional Polypharmacy Community of Practice, with members working to address the system-wide challenges of problematic polypharmacy in our geography.
  • Routine use of the NHSBSA Polypharmacy Prescribing Comparators to identify and prioritise patients for a shared decision-making Structured Medication Review.
  • Increased confidence amongst the region’s primary care prescribing workforce to safely stop medicines identified to be inappropriate or unnecessary.
  • A change in patient expectations – to anticipate having a shared decision-making conversation about their medicines regularly, especially as they get older.
  • A contribution to the evidence base around how to help patients to feel more empowered to open up about their medicines issues.
  • A contribution to the evidence base around how to tackle problematic polypharmacy.

How will we do this?

The programme is based across three pillars which are supported by a West Midlands Community of Practice.

If you are interested in joining our Polypharmacy: Learning collaborative, please email Jordan.Leith@wmahsn.org. This is a safe space where those with a passion to change the status quo around leaving people on medicines they don’t need or want can meet collectively to share their experience.

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Project team

Jordan Leith

Innovation Project Manager (Polypharmacy)

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