Friday, 19 September 2014

Leading pharmacists debate hospital infections

This week the leading pharmacists in the U.K. congregated in Warwick for the NHS QA Symposium. A number of measures to protect patients from infection were discussed, and Digital Journal was in attendance.
Most of the U.K.’s health provision is delivered through the National Health Service (NHS). Among the care provided is the manufacture of small batches of medicines through specialist pharmacy units. Those involved in this process include technicians, medics, pharmacists and microbiologists. The main principle by which the medicines are produced is Quality assurance (QA).
Once a year, managers, specialists and scientists gather to discuss the latest technologies and best practices at the QA Symposium.
One of the running themes was about making error free medicines. A session on this subject was led by Professor Anna Guha, from Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University Hospitals NHS Trust. The talk focused on getting procedures right and understanding different learning styles. Control and procedures featured in several talks, including the appropriate design of software. One presentation by Peter Rhodes looked at the ideal software for hospital compounding.
A lively debate took place about “vial sharing”. This is whether a vial of drug should be single-use or shared between patients. Although most drugs come in single-dose vials (SDVs) they typically contain more drug than one dose. On this basis, can the same vial be used for more than one patient? The argument for vial sharing is in relation to cost savings. The argument against centered on risks to patient safety, especially the risk of contracting a hospital acquire infection. The issue that everyone seemed to agree on is that the “leftovers” from two different vials should not be pooled together, mixed, and then administered to a patient.
In a presentation on pharmaceutical microbiology, Dr. Tim Sandle discussed the need to find out exactly what types of microorganisms are present in the environment and then to apply this knowledge to select the best disinfectants and biocides that can kill these microorganisms so they do not remain in the areas where medicines are prepared. Following this, Nicola Swift explained why characterizing microorganisms was important: “accurate identification is of great importance”, she explained, before outlining some advances in rapid and more accurate methods.
In a related area, there were several stands and posters providing information about hospital acquired infections. Here a strong emphasis was placed on healthcare professionals washing their hands and using effective hand sanitizers, as a means to lower the risk of infection to patients.
The thorny issue of outsourcing was brought to the table by pharmacist Richard Bateman. This relates to the issue of the extent that health provision in the U.K. is subject to privatisation. Bateman’s presentation was focused on maintaining quality standards. Talking to many of the delegates, the vast majority who expressed an opinion were concerned about privatization of the health service, especially with outside companies coming in and having lower quality standards.
Overall the conference raised and debated a number of contemporary and important issues relating to healthcare and the preparation of medicines.

Posted by Tim Sandle