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Exploring an extended role for pharmacy assistants on inpatient wards in UK hospitals: using mixed methods to develop the role of medicines assistants

Objectives

This project explored the deployment of pharmacy assistants to inpatient wards in a new role as ‘medicines assistants’ (MA).

Methods

Ward-based MAs were introduced to six wards across two UK hospitals to support medicines administration. Each 30-bed ward delivered acute inpatient services with MAs supporting typical nursing medication administration rounds to 15 patients. Data were collected using activity diaries, observations, clinical audit and semistructured interviews with pharmacy assistants, pharmacy technicians, clinical pharmacists, nurses, ward managers and pharmacy managers. Thematic analysis, descriptive statistics and the Mann-Whitney U test were used to analyse qualitative and quantitative data, respectively.

Results

MAs were able to act as a point of contact between the ward and the pharmacy department and were perceived to save nursing time. A statistically significant reduction in the length of time to complete morning medication administration to 15 patients was observed (mean 74.5 vs 60.8 min per round, p<0.05). On average, 17.4 hours of medicines-related activity per ward per week was carried out by MAs rather than by nursing staff. Participants identified broader training and clarity was needed in relation to the accountability and governance of patient-facing roles.

Conclusion

Pharmacy assistants deployed as MAs can contribute to saving nursing time and bridge the gap between nursing and pharmacy professionals.

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