Covid-19 and Rx-info’s commitment to NHS pharmacy
Posted in News
by Colin Richman, BPharm (Hons) MPharmS FFCI
Director – Rx-info
June 8, 2020
Mobilising the NHS to respond to the enormous challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic has been, without doubt, the greatest challenge our health service has faced in its 72 years.
Rx-info’s role in upgrading crucial medicines management software to enable trusts to maintain supply levels has been swift and effective thanks to the focus, responsiveness and collaboration of NHS colleagues.
With the help of secondary care pharmacists on the front line, as well as NHSE/I, Public Health England, the Department of Health and Social Care and their counterparts in other nations of the UK, Rx-info’s software is providing NHS Trusts and the NHS nationally with a daily overview of all Covid-19 related medicines stocks across the country, giving accurate Trust-by-Trust forecasts of future requirements.
This has helped inform a regular central allocation of available stocks nationwide, and also supported mutual aid, with stock management locally and regionally co-ordinated by medicines procurement specialists. We know from speaking to colleagues on the front line that this has helped to save lives.
In six weeks at the height of the pandemic, hospital Critical Care Units used the equivalent of a full year’s supply of a particular range of medication to keep patients alive on ventilators.
We understand that the information provided by the Exend® software, enabled stocks to be moved to Trusts facing the greatest demand, ensuring that supplies were maintained and lives were saved as a consequence.
These particular drugs are manufactured across the globe and, at a time of almost overwhelming demand and supply chain disruption worldwide, it was vital that best use was made of all available supplies. Forecasts produced by our software have also helped pharmacy procurement leads to replenish stocks with minimal disruption.
Rx-info was founded in Exeter in 2003 and has its headquarters at Exeter Science Park.
Our software was originally developed to help hospital pharmacies follow best prescribing practice while also allowing them to compare prices being paid for various medicines. Packages such as Define® and ADIoS® have been helping Trusts support national priorities such as antimicrobial stewardship and identifying diversion of controlled and abusable drugs for many years.
Exend® was developed to give timely warnings about potential future supply issues
Our platform is standard across secondary care pharmacies in NHS England and has also recently been rolled out in Wales and Northern Ireland, giving users an excellent overview of medicines supply and demand.
Exend® was developed for the NHS as a forecasting tool to supplement our existing software and give timely warnings about potential future supply issues in the event of, for instance, disruption linked to the UK leaving the EU.
There are tens of thousands of different medications available in secondary care – no human could ever meaningfully keep track of supplies across the whole of NHS secondary care, but Rx-info’s software can.
When we first became aware in January that there was community transmission of the novel coronavirus in China, we turned the whole company’s efforts to ensuring Exend® would be able to respond effectively to a pandemic hitting the UK.
Before then we were looking at 12-month forecasts, now Exend® can crunch the available data to give two-week forecasts – on top of the regular daily snapshots.
Prior to the pandemic, we saw that Exend® was mostly being used on a regional level, with stock commonly moving between neighbouring Trusts. Now it is being used on a national level and stock has been transported to wherever it has been needed.
Early on in the pandemic this meant a lot of stock was going into London as that is where demand was highest. Now there is a much more even picture across the country.
Our software is also continuing to provide details on non-Covid stocks: we saw large declines in use of these, by around a third across the board. Information on such stock levels will be invaluable to inform Trusts as they once again begin to consider elective treatments.
As has always been the case, the quality of the information we are able to provide depends on the quality of the data provided by our colleagues in pharmacy in Trusts up and down the country. In recent weeks we have seen that between 90 and 100 per cent of Trusts have been loading data on a daily basis.
We are immensely grateful for everyone’s efforts day in, day out, which we believe demonstrate the value placed on our work by our front-line colleagues.
The team at Rx-info has been incredibly impressed by the resilience and adaptability displayed by the people working in the NHS and the Department of Health and Social Care during this unprecedented crisis. At the same time, I’ve been equally impressed by the way my colleagues at Rx-info have adapted in the same way and I’m very proud of them and their work.
As the country and the NHS in particular move forward into a “new normal”, whatever that entails, Rx-info will continue to strive to work with our colleagues from all parts of the NHS across the UK to provide the most up-to-date, accurate and potentially life-saving information possible.