Parties from all sides of the industry came together this week to discuss the information needs of patients and how to provide better access to such information, at a conference organised by the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry in association with the Ask About Medicines initiative, Cancerbackup and Diabetes UK.

Crowned Mind the Gap, the conference, attended by a variety of delegates from the Department of Health, patient groups, the health voluntary sector and the pharmaceutical industry, amongst others, explored various initiatives designed to help give patients the information they want.

Explaining the drive to increase the quality of information provision, Nigel Brooksby, President of the ABPI, said: “Patients who understand more about their condition, the treatments they undergo and the medicines they take are better equipped to take charge of their own healthcare.” And a spokesperson for the British Medical Association agreed, telling PharmaTimes UK News that, from a doctor’s point of view, “the more informed a patient is the better.”

Information pilots

In particular, Mind the Gap focused on pilot schemes for the government’s recently launched information prescriptions initiative – which kicked off in March this year after a public consultation and under the white paper Our Health, Our Care, Our Say.

Under the initiative, doctors and other healthcare professionals will prescribe information as well medicines to patients with long-term conditions or social care needs, in order to guide them to relevant information on their illness, such as websites, telephone numbers and support groups. According to the DH, the move will help patients with conditions such as cancer or mental health problems feel more in control and better able to maintain their independence.

The DH has funded 20 pilot schemes that are assessing the provision of information at various points in the patient care pathway. Speaking to PharmaTimes UK News, Anne Joshua of NHS Direct described one such pilot scheme that her organisation is running with Evelina Children’s Hospital, part of Guys and St Thomas’ Foundation Trust.

NHS Direct dispensing

Under the scheme, parents of children at the hospital visiting the onsite pharmacists will be offered the chance to fill out a tick box form regarding any extra information – be it on the medicines, their child’s illness, support groups, etc – that they require. This information is then uploaded electronically by the pharmacists and picked up by NHS Direct, which gathers the requested information and sends it either directly to the parent or pharmacist.

According to Anne, the idea is that, depending on the method of information delivery, the whole process could take place in just one working day and, further down the line, the scheme will be extended to include three high-street pharmacies – Boots, Tescos and Lloyds Pharmacy – to assess how well it works in the community.

She stressed that the scheme, which will run for around six months, is very much a “work in progress,” and that issues of security and confidentiality are being taken very seriously, with those participating in the pilot being offered a no-names service.