WARNINGS have been voiced that drugs kept on hospital wards could be at greater risk of potential pilfering if the full pharmacy operation at Banbury’s Horton Hospital is moved to Oxford.
Retired Horton principal pharmacist Margaret Ferriman aired her concern to the Community Partnership Network (CPN) last month, a group of stakeholders feeding local opinion to Oxford Radcliffe Hospitals Trust bosses.
A review has mooted closing the full pharmacy at the Horton and managing the service at Oxford with pharmacists visiting patients on wards.
Drugs supplies would be delivered from Oxford but ward stores would be expanded.
Mrs Ferriman, who ran the pharmacy for 35 years before her retirement in 1994, told the Banbury Guardian that having full time supervision helped prevent the potential of thefts from ward stores.
“When I was there, there were stocks held on wards but every one was visited every day by a member of pharmacy staff and the drugs were inspected,” she said.
“If pharmacy supervision is removed to Oxford pilfering could, in theory, become easier. It could be simple antibiotics, but there are many drugs that alter perception and have perfectly legitimate uses but may be attractive for other uses.
“Workface supervision is able to prevent or diminish the risk of abuse.”
She said daily inspections of drugs cabinets acted as checks and balances.
Trust CEO Sir Jonathan Michael said in a letter to Banbury MP Sir Tony Baldry the move would increase pharmacy staff time supporting patients. Stocks of time-critical medicines would be kept at the Horton, he said.
In a statement, Bhulesh Vadher, clinical director of pharmacy, said: “We are not reducing ward-level staffing and do take the safe and secure storage of medicines very seriously.
“The improved service where pharmacists visit patients at the bedside will better support patients by ensuring they get the best out of the medicines they are prescribed. Cabinets are kept locked and the key is held by the nurse in charge. The contents of those cabinets are topped up and checked regularly and all staff are given full training in the management of medicines.
“The Trust has full confidence in the integrity of its staff to maintain security for all medicines. No final decision has been made. Savings are being finalised as part of a more detailed review. Should those savings affect any staff, they would be redeployed, not made redundant.”
Keep the Horton General campaigners fear that without the Horton’s dedicated dispensing pharmacy, sick, disabled or injured patients will be forced to find commercial outlets where they can exchange prescriptions given to them on discharge or as they leave outpatients or the accident and emergency department.
It is understood the current unit has ten pharmacy staff members.