Over the years there have been many innovations and developments in the pharmacy world. Choosing which ones to embrace and deciding which will most advance the service is complex.

One particularly successful innovation we’ve introduced at East Lancashire Hospitals is the introduction of a Dedicated Ward Pharmacy (DWP) service. This has not only advanced the service but it is having a huge impact on patient safety, experience and flow.

In essence, DWP means one pharmacist delivering pharmaceutical care to one ward, with support from pharmacy technicians and assistants. This ‘delivery of pharmaceutical care’ sees pharmacists routinely participate in consultant-led ward rounds. The result has been an important one; pharmacists directly influencing prescribing decisions at the time they are made. But not only that, the pharmacist also gains additional knowledge of the patient’s ongoing care, such as discharge arrangements and social issues. This additional information enables the Pharmacy Team to effectively plan for a smoother more effective discharge, with fewer delays.

For example, when two surgical wards adopted DWP the number of morning discharges immediately doubled and there was 10 per cent reduction in discharges after 5pm.

This change in services also benefits junior doctors by freeing their time to do other work.

Whilst on ward rounds the pharmacists check prescription charts to make sure all regular medications are prescribed, that there are course lengths and indications recorded for antibiotics, they check VTE prophylaxis is prescribed, look for contraindications in new prescriptions, assess blood results for medicines that need monitoring. They’re promoting safety and reducing harm on a large scale.

The work we’ve done has not only generated great interest within the Trust, but outside our organisation as well. A huge amount of data has already been collected and analysed to show reduced length of stay, fewer readmissions, faster discharge times and lower drug costs. The next step is inviting the University of Manchester’s School of Pharmacy to independently evaluate the service.

Key to the pharmacy team’s success has been the level of support and buy-in from the Trust Board and senior clinicians who agreed to fund the project.

Our most valuable resource is our staff. It was therefore essential that they were engaged and working towards a shared goal.

Don’t just take our word about the benefits DWP delivers to staff and patients. “I just wanted to let you know how amazing this pilot has been for the ward and I really don’t want it to end,” is the opinion of Michelle Turner, C18 Ward Manager at the Royal Blackburn Teaching Hospital.