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Open Access Research

An embedded longitudinal multi-faceted qualitative evaluation of a complex cluster randomized controlled trial aiming to reduce clinically important errors in medicines management in general practice

Kathrin M Cresswell1, Stacey Sadler2, Sarah Rodgers3, Anthony Avery4, Judith Cantrill5, Scott A Murray1, Aziz Sheikh1* and On behalf of the PINCER Evaluation Team

Author Affiliations

1 eHealth Research Group, Centre for Population Health Sciences, The University of Edinburgh, Scotland, UK

2 NHS Nottinghamshire County, Nottingham, UK

3 Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care, University of Nottingham, Nottingham, UK

4 Community Health Sciences, University of Nottingham, Nottingham, UK

5 Drug Usage and Pharmacy Practice Group, School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of Manchester, Manchester, UK

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Trials 2012, 13:78  doi:10.1186/1745-6215-13-78

Published: 8 June 2012

Abstract

Background

There is a need to shed light on the pathways through which complex interventions mediate their effects in order to enable critical reflection on their transferability. We sought to explore and understand key stakeholder accounts of the acceptability, likely impact and strategies for optimizing and rolling-out a successful pharmacist-led information technology-enabled (PINCER) intervention, which substantially reduced the risk of clinically important errors in medicines management in primary care.

Methods

Data were collected at two geographical locations in central England through a combination of one-to-one longitudinal semi-structured telephone interviews (one at the beginning of the trial and another when the trial was well underway), relevant documents, and focus group discussions following delivery of the PINCER intervention. Participants included PINCER pharmacists, general practice staff, researchers involved in the running of the trial, and primary care trust staff. PINCER pharmacists were interviewed at three different time-points during the delivery of the PINCER intervention. Analysis was thematic with diffusion of innovation theory providing a theoretical framework.

Results

We conducted 52 semi-structured telephone interviews and six focus group discussions with 30 additional participants. In addition, documentary data were collected from six pharmacist diaries, along with notes from four meetings of the PINCER pharmacists and feedback meetings from 34 practices. Key findings that helped to explain the success of the PINCER intervention included the perceived importance of focusing on prescribing errors to all stakeholders, and the credibility and appropriateness of a pharmacist-led intervention to address these shortcomings. Central to this was the face-to-face contact and relationship building between pharmacists and a range of practice staff, and pharmacists’ explicitly designated role as a change agent. However, important concerns were identified about the likely sustainability of this new model of delivering care, in the absence of an appropriate support network for pharmacists and career development pathways.

Conclusions

This embedded qualitative inquiry has helped to understand the complex organizational and social environment in which the trial was undertaken and the PINCER intervention was delivered. The longitudinal element has given insight into the dynamic changes and developments over time. Medication errors and ways to address these are high on stakeholders’ agendas. Our results further indicate that pharmacists were, because of their professional standing and skill-set, able to engage with the complex general practice environment and able to identify and manage many clinically important errors in medicines management. The transferability of the PINCER intervention approach, both in relation to other prescribing errors and to other practices, is likely to be high.

Keywords:
Qualitative evaluation; Randomized controlled trial; Pharmacist intervention; Primary care