Impact of a specialist mental health pharmacy team on medicines optimisation in primary care for patients on a severe mental illness register: a pilot study

Eur J Hosp Pharm. 2020 Jan;27(1):31-35. doi: 10.1136/ejhpharm-2018-001514. Epub 2018 Jul 2.


Objective: Medication arrangements for patients with severe mental illness (SMI), including schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, can be complex. Some have shared care between primary and secondary services while others have little specialist input. This study investigated the contribution a specialist mental health clinical pharmacy team could make to medicines optimisation for patients on the SMI register in primary care. Research shows that specialist mental health pharmacists improve care in inpatient settings. However, little is known about their potential impact in primary care.

Method: Five general practice surgeries were allocated half a day per week of a specialist pharmacist and technician for 12 months. The technician reviewed primary and secondary care records for discrepancies. Records were audited for high-dose or multiple antipsychotics, physical health monitoring and adherence. Issues were referred to the pharmacist for review. Surgery staff were encouraged to refer psychotropic medication queries to the team. Interventions were recorded and graded.

Results: 316/472 patients on the SMI register were prescribed antipsychotics or mood stabilisers. 23 (7%) records were updated with missing clozapine and depot information. Interventions by the pharmacist included clarifying discharge information (12/104), reviewing high-dose and multiple antipsychotic prescribing (18/104), correcting errors (10/104), investigating adherence issues (16/104), following up missing health checks (22/104) and answering queries from surgery staff (23/104). Five out of six interventions possibly preventing hospital admission were for referral of non-adherent patients.

Conclusion: The pharmacy team found a variety of issues including incomplete medicines reconciliation, adherence issues, poor communication, drug errors and the need for specialist advice. The expertise of the team enabled timely resolution of issues and bridges were built between primary and secondary care.

Keywords: clinical pharmacy; individualised medication surveillance; mental health; organisation of health services; primary care; risk management.

MeSH terms

  • Antipsychotic Agents / adverse effects
  • Antipsychotic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Medication Adherence
  • Medication Reconciliation / methods
  • Medication Reconciliation / standards*
  • Mental Disorders / drug therapy*
  • Mental Disorders / epidemiology
  • Mental Health / standards
  • Pharmacists / standards*
  • Pharmacy Service, Hospital / methods
  • Pharmacy Service, Hospital / standards*
  • Pharmacy Technicians / standards*
  • Pilot Projects
  • Primary Health Care / methods
  • Primary Health Care / standards*
  • Registries / standards


  • Antipsychotic Agents