The first UK research collaboration between a hospital, university and community pharmacist has been launched, with the aim of improving the way patients use their medicines outside the hospital setting.

The project has been established between Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU), the Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University Hospitals NHS Trust and LloydsPharmacy, and will be carried out at the new Centre for Pharmacy Innovation at the LJMU School of Pharmacy and Biomolecular Sciences.

Research will initially focus on identifying improvements in how medicines are managed and prescribed when patients are admitted to hospital and when they are discharged home and must continue taking their medicines. The project aims to find a new process that will provide safe and effective management of medicines for patients from the hospital to the community, with an enhanced role for community pharmacies. 

The new model will be piloted at the Royal and evaluated with the aim of providing a new way of working for hospitals and pharmacies across the UK.

It will also support the development of a post-graduate education and training programme to better equip community pharmacy teams with the skills to advise patients about their health, from minor ailments to diabetes and asthma control.

“Many patients find it difficult to manage their medication when they are discharged from hospital, and this often leads to their health deteriorating and they end up having to come back into hospital,” said Alison Ewing, clinical director of pharmacy at the Trust and chair in pharmacy innovation at LJMU’s faculty of science, who is leading the strategy for the research programme.

“We want the Centre for Pharmacy Innovation to encourage and inspire pharmacists to take part in research and hope to design and deliver a new postgraduate diploma programme to advance community practice,” Prof Ewing added.

Charles Morecroft, professor of pharmacy education and professional practice at LJMU’s faculty of science, pointed out that while there have been “numerous” attempts to improve aspects of the discharge process for medicines in the UK, none of these has made any sustainable difference to patient safety or quality of care.

However, the initiative’s first PhD student is now in place and working on the project, which will involve a mixed-methods approach, said Prof Morecroft.

Andrew Willetts, healthcare solutions director leading the project on behalf of LloydsPharmacy, said that with pressure on the NHS continuing to rise and patient safety being more important than ever, there is an opportunity for pharmacy to alleviate this pressure by providing hospitals with an approved clinical pathway, and this presents the chance to “change the face and quality of healthcare forever.” 

“We see this first research project as a starting point in a long future of creating academic partnerships that will drive excellence in healthcare,” he added.