PROBLEM: A need to improve service to patients by reducing the time wasted by reception staff so that the 48 hour target for processing repeat prescription requests for patient collection could be achieved. DESIGN: An interprofessional team was established within the practice to tackle the area of repeat prescribing which had been identified as a priority by practice reception staff. The team met four times in three months and used continuous quality improvement (CQI) methodology (including the Plan-Do-Study-Act cycle) with the assistance of an external facilitator. BACKGROUND AND SETTING: A seven partner practice serving the 14,000 patients on the northern outskirts of Bournemouth including a large council estate and a substantial student population from Bournemouth University. The repeat prescribing process is computerised. KEY MEASURES FOR IMPROVEMENT: Reducing turn around times for repeat prescription requests. Reducing numbers of requests which need medical records to be checked to issue the script. Feedback to staff about the working of the process. STRATEGIES FOR CHANGE: Using a Plan-Do-Study-Act cycle for guidance, the team decided to (a) coincide repeat medications and to record on the computer drugs prescribed during visits; (b) give signing of prescriptions a higher priority and bring them to doctors' desks at an agreed time; and (c) move the site for printing prescriptions to the reception desk so as to facilitate face to face queries. EFFECTS OF CHANGE: Prescription turnaround within 48 hours increased from 95% to 99% with reduced variability case to case and at a reduced cost. The number of prescriptions needing records to be looked at was reduced from 18% to 8.6%. This saved at least one working day of receptionist time each month. Feedback from all staff within the practice indicated greatly increased satisfaction with the newly designed process. LESSONS LEARNT: The team's experience suggests that a combination of audit and improvement methodology offers a powerful way to learn about, and improve, practice. The interventions used by the team not only produced measurable and sustainable improvements but also helped the team to learn about the cost of achieving the results and provided them with tools to accomplish the aims. The importance of feedback to all staff about CQI measures was also recognised.
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