Beyond ‘safety of supply’: a response to Harry McQuillan’s lecture

The emphasis placed by Harry McQuillan, chief executive of Community Pharmacy Scotland, on the need for community pharmacists in the UK to transition from an ‘accuracy of supply’ model to a ‘safety of supply’ model is certainly worthy of attention. However, I argue that we must not stop there.

As pharmacists, we need to adopt a more encompassing view that focuses not only on safety, but also ensures improved patient-centred care, superior outcomes and cost-effectiveness.

To support my argument, I draw upon Lord Darzi’s definition of quality that comprises safety, effectiveness, patient experience and cost-effectiveness. Using this definition, I propose the following considerations for a robust, efficient and patient-friendly system:

1. Ensure safety

The foundational pillar of our services must unequivocally be safety. Shifting our focus to ‘safety of supply’ will enable us to decrease the likelihood of medication errors, adverse drug reactions and poor management of medication. To ensure drug safety, mitigate risks and promote patient welfare, we must harness technology. This could include systems such as electronic health records or artificial intelligence-powered predictive tools.

2. Improve effectiveness

Pharmacists must ensure that the right medication is provided to the right patient, at the right time, and in the right manner. By doing this, we can ensure the effectiveness of medication and enhance patient outcomes. We can further improve effectiveness through the implementation of clinical services such as medication reviews or medication therapy management, which can lead to reduced hospital admissions.

3. Enhance patient experience

As the last point of contact in the healthcare system, it is incumbent upon us to ensure a positive patient experience. By personalising care, improving communication, and fostering trust, we can improve adherence to medication and treatment plans. Digital health tools should be leveraged to increase accessibility and convenience and provide personalised care.

4. Ensure cost-effectiveness

Given the financial challenges facing the NHS, pharmacists can play a critical role in providing cost-effective healthcare. We should advocate for the use of generic drugs, ensure the optimisation of medication and prevent wastage. As experts in medications, we can offer cost-effective solutions that strike a balance between quality care and financial sustainability.

The current financial challenges facing the NHS should not be perceived as obstacles, but rather as opportunities to redefine the role of pharmacists. By adopting these four principles, we can make a strong case for the importance of community pharmacy, demonstrating our crucial role in delivering quality healthcare and making a significant contribution to the NHS. Half measures will no longer suffice; it is time for full commitment to providing quality care that surpasses expectations.

Hemant Patel, clinical lead, health inequalities and population health management, Mid and South Essex Integrated Care System

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, July 2023, Vol 311, No 7975;311(7975)::DOI:10.1211/PJ.2023.1.192552

1 comment

  • Kevin Smith

    That's really helpful, Hermant. I would add that we should consider the investment in patient health as part of the calculation of cost effectiveness. If we avoid future NHS/healthcare interventions, and support people to maintain/gain quality of life, not only will that contribute to patient experience, it also contributes to the wider economic environment. For example, perhaps it can allow people to continue working, or return to work. When you state medications should be delivered in the 'right manner', I would expand that to say - " in a way that they can fit into their lifestyle, and obtain the maximum benefit from" - it's important they *can* adhere to treatment, as well. K


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