Improved patient care and safety

Scotland, Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland joint pharmacy project.

A cross-border trial has improved care for patients prescribed multiple medicines.

The iSIMPATHY project, funded by the European Union's INTERREG VA Programme, worked with professionals in Scotland, the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland to comprehensively review patient medication.

Taking multiple medicines can be problematic if the increased risk of harm from interactions between drugs, or between drugs and diseases, outweighs the intended benefits.

Interim findings showed these interventions potentially prevented major organ failure, adverse drug reactions, avoided hospital admissions and saw patients moved to more appropriate medication.

Project funding, managed by the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB), was match funded by the Northern Ireland Executive, the Irish Government and the Scottish Government.

Scotland’s Public Health Minister Maree Todd said:

“This project looked at some of our most vulnerable patients taking more than five medications. The reviews have avoided adverse combinations of drugs and hospitalisations while also reducing prescriptions and drugs costs.

“We will know more when the full evaluation is published in June, we will work with partners to see how we can these improvements can be applied more widely, potentially saving lives and money.”  

Ireland’s Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly said:

“Medicines are the most common healthcare intervention used within the health system, and the use of the right medicine for the right patient at the right time is central to this. In the delivery of this project, pharmacists were strategically and ideally placed as medicines experts within a multidisciplinary team framework working to maximise therapeutic outcomes for optimal patient benefit.

“I’d like to thank all the partners involved in the iSIMPATHY project for their work to achieve this.”

Northern Ireland Department of Health Chief Pharmaceutical Officer, Mrs Cathy Harrison said:  

“I’m pleased to see the impact on patients and service users who have taken part in iSIMPATHY who are at the heart of the project’s aim to ensure the best and most sustainable use of medicines. 

“iSIMPATHY has achieved this through training pharmacists and other healthcare professionals to deliver medicine reviews and embed a shared approach to managing multiple medicines.  Northern Ireland has been delighted to collaborate with our partner regions to build on the success of previous projects dedicated to improving medicine safety.”

Gina McIntyre, SEUPB CEO said:

“Thanks to projects such as iSIMPATHY, we can understand the importance of cross-border cooperation, and how they are playing a major role in the efficient delivery of health services, in the border regions, alongside addressing challenges brought about by rising demand within a constrained budget environment.

“Health is an important precondition for economic growth, while also fostering social cohesion. I am delighted to see just how effective this project has been in improving the lives of people in the region.”


The project partners are:

  • Scottish Government
  • NHS Scotland
  • Northern Health & Social Care Trust
  • Medicines Optimisation Centre (MOIC) in Northern Ireland
  • Health Service Executive in the Republic of Ireland.

The Implementing Stimulating Innovation in the Management of Polypharmacy and Adherence Through the Years (iSIMPATHY) project had a budget of €3.5 million and is funded through the European Union’s INTERREG VA Programme, managed by the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB), and match funded by the Northern Ireland Executive, the Irish Government and the Scottish Government.

The Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB) is a North/South Implementation Body sponsored by The Department of Finance in Northern Ireland and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform in Ireland. It is responsible for managing two EU Structural Funds Programmes, PEACE IV and INTERREG VA which are designed to enhance cross-border cooperation, promote reconciliation and create a more peaceful and prosperous society.

The INTERREG VA Programme has a European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) contribution of €240 million and aims to address the economic and social problems which result from the existence of borders.

Medicine reviews are cost-effective due to immediate interventions such as medicine optimisation, (which may result in deprescribing) and the downstream effect, such as preventable admissions to hospital, primary and social care settings. The project trained 160 additional GPs, hospital doctors and pharmacists to undertake reviews.

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