Blog: Quality Payments – helping solve the LASA puzzle?

With the deadline of Friday 1 March fast approaching, there is just over a week left for pharmacy teams to submit your declaration for the pharmacy Quality Payments Scheme (QPS).

The scheme’s designed to reward community pharmacy teams for delivering quality in three areas: clinical effectiveness, patient experience and patient safety. The new criteria include more elements related to patient safety than ever before, one of which draws attention to the important topic of ‘look-alike sound-alike’ (LASA) errors.

Issues with LASA medicines affect both primary and secondary care and the community pharmacy sector is striving to address these through its dedicated cross-sector group.  

The Community Pharmacy Patient Safety Group (CP PSG) is hosted by the CCA and it provides a forum for community pharmacy organisations from across the sector to come together and openly share and learn from each other’s patient safety experiences and expertise. The group is made of Medication Safety Officers (MSO) from the 18 largest pharmacy operators, as well as the NPA representing independent pharmacy teams. The CP PSG is very pleased to see that pharmacy teams are being encouraged by QPS to develop their patient safety culture and to ensure that community pharmacies continue to provide the safest possible care.   

The CP PSG has produced some handy posters for pharmacy teams to use in their safety huddle discussions, and for display in the dispensary, as a reminder about the risks associated with LASA dispensing errors.

The CP PSG has worked closely with the PSNC to develop resources for pharmacy teams to use to support them in fulfilling the criteria outlined in QPS. This year, pharmacy teams are asked to provide a written safety report which identifies risks associated with specific combinations of LASA medicines. 

One LASA dispensing incident that was discussed among the group involved two asthma inhalers of different strengths. Their packaging looked very similar and the only difference was a darker shade of purple on the higher strength. Community pharmacy teams will be familiar with the dangers associated with LASA medicines, and incidents such as this one highlight the importance of an open approach to learning from them.  

As part of the group’s meetings, the MSOs have explored many different risk minimisation measures to reduce the likelihood of LASA errors occurring. Some ideas include physical separation, visual warnings in the dispensary and revisiting checking procedures. However, we know that every patient safety incident is caused by a combination of factors, including human ones, so there is no one solution to solve the LASA puzzle. 

By creating resources such as these risk assessment templates and LASA posters, the Patient Safety Group is proud to support pharmacy teams across the country in meeting the new quality criteria.

Mary Gough
Policy & Communications Officer

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