General views around St. Peter's hospital, Chertsey. Main Entrance. GL

Pharmacy chaos at St Peter’s Hospital

I recently spent a spell in St Peter’s Hospital, Chertsey, and was exceedingly impressed by the work, devotion, and expertise of the Health Care Assistants and Nursing, staff. That being said, I experienced and was aware of the pressures on A & E – with many NHS customers lay on uncomfortable trolleys and worryingly waiting for a bed to become available (I prefer the title of ‘customer’ to ‘patient’, because I don’t believe that ill people should be patient when receiving a slow delivery service).

The usual explanation, for what is often described as “bed blocking”, is that many elderly patients are lay in beds in the Hospital Wards, waiting for specialized care in the community provision. There is no doubt that such an explanation is valid and the government needs to provide significantly improved funding for care in the community. Such should enable needy NHS customers to flow more easily from a trolley in A & E to a bed in the Hospital Ward.

That being said, I found via observation and complaint, that a systematic Pharmacy problem, in St Peters Hospital, is significantly contributing to “bed blocking”. This problem resulting in customers being discharged from hospital having to sit on their hospital beds waiting for many hours while Pharmacy sort out their medication so they can go home. For example, I was told the day before that I would be going home tomorrow. Despite such (and being advised that my medication had been sent to Pharmacy early in the AM on the day of leaving) I was waiting sat on my bed from 9am until 6pm for permission to leave. What is more, with a third of the Ward customers being discharged, beds were tied up for hours on end – all waiting for Pharmacy medication. Indeed, this was not an isolated occurrence, there was clear evidence to suggest that the Pharmacy problem occurs many, many, times daily. The net result being that while seriously ill customers lay on trolleys in A & E, those being discharged are frustratingly waiting many hours for their medication to be sorted.

When I discussed the problem with senior Pharmacy staff there was a clear acknowledgement that they were very busy and all their staff (76 in number) were doing their utmost to meet the demand. Therein highlights the Pharmacy problem. They have a pharmacy monopoly and provide medication for all hospital customers (day and overnight stayers). As such, if they increase staff to speed up the delivery process, they will incur salary costs – I.e. without being able to increase the number of customers who require medication. Thus, there is no financial incentive for Pharmacy to speed up their medication delivery service.

An obvious solution is to introduce a competitor Pharmacy within St Peter’s Hospital. By allowing a Pharmacist such as Lloyds, Boots, etc. to compete for custom, the net result should be that the pharmacist who provides the quickest, accurate, and most efficient delivery service, should be recommended as the first port of call for nurses requesting medication. Provided there is a weekly/monthly statistical data on medication delivery times to the Wards, both Pharmacy providers should have considerable custom, with an incentive to speed up their delivery service. What is more, existing Pharmacy staff should not fear a loss of employment as a result of the competition – since the TUPE regulations should ensure employment protection for existing staff.

We should feel proud of our NHS service. The proposal in this article (to which many St Peters Hospital staff have openly agreed [some quietly]) would help improve hospital efficiency, while vitally enabling an improved flow of customers between A & E and the Wards. There is no doubt that St Peter’s Hospital need to take urgent steps to resolve this systematic Pharmacy problem.

About Dr Peter Jepson

Dr Peter Jepson. Libertarian Socialist.
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