iStock-897885148 (pharmacy pills)

New figures show improvements in polypharmacy

Polypharmacy prescribing has been steadily improving across England, according to data from the NHSBSA’s ePACT2 dashboard.

Patients on 10 or more medicines are over three times more likely to be admitted to hospital. As our population is aging, polypharmacy has, in particular, become a greater risk factor for poor outcomes in elderly patients who are more likely to take multiple medications. 70% of hospital admissions for adverse drug reactions could be avoided if problematic polypharmacy is addressed, so the use of this dataset is now central to clinicians trying to address this and benefit the patients at greatest risk.

Data trends have revealed situations where prescribers have been able to use the dashboards to improve prescribing for some patients. Although, analysts have pointed out that the figures will also be affected by other activity, guidance or initiatives, including developments in the range of products available and demographic or population health trends.

The data analysis focuses on seven comparators, :

  • patients with an anticholinergic burden score of 6 or more
  • patients with an anticholinergic burden score of 6 or more, aged 65 and over
  • patients prescribed 10 or more unique medicines
  • multiple prescribing of anticoagulants and antiplatelet medicine
  • average number of unique medicines per patient
  • patients prescribed two or more unique medicines likely to cause kidney injury (DAMN medicines)
  • patients prescribed an NSAID and one or more other unique DAMN medicines

Since July 2017, across all CCGs in England:

  • all seven of the comparators selected for analysis improved
  • five out of the seven improved by more than twice the standard range of variation seen before July 2017
  • three comparators that had been getting worse before July 2017 have begun to improve

For example, one of the areas showing an improvement is the percentage of patients prescribed 10 or more unique medicines:

Polypharmacy chart 1

In the seven most active CCGs, more than 20 local practices have used the dashboards to request specific information about polypharmic patients. Improvements in these areas were even greater:

Polypharmacy chart 2


Visit the NHSBSA website to find out more about the polypharmacy dashboard.


Contact Information

Kate Blush

Senior Media and Campaigns Officer

NHS Business Services Authority

Notes to editors

About the NHS Business Services Authority

The NHS Business Services Authority is a Special Health Authority and an Arm’s Length Body of the Department of Health and Social Care which provides a range of critical central services to NHS organisations, NHS contractors, patients and the public. Its purpose is to be a catalyst for better health and its vision is to be the delivery partner of choice for the NHS. For more information about the NHSBSA, please visit