The COVID-19 pandemic caused significant disruption to routine activity in primary care. Medication reviews are an important primary care activity to ensure safety and appropriateness of ongoing prescribing and a disruption could have significant negative implications for patient care.
Using routinely collected data, our aim was to i) describe the SNOMED CT codes used to report medication review activity ii) report the impact of COVID-19 on the volume and variation of medication reviews.
Design and setting
With the approval of NHS England, we conducted a cohort study of 20 million adult patient records in general practice, in-situ using the OpenSAFELY platform.
For each month between April 2019 - March 2022, we report the percentage of patients with a medication review coded monthly and in the previous 12 months. These measures were broken down by regional, clinical and demographic subgroups and amongst those prescribed high risk medications.
In April 2019, 32.3% of patients had a medication review coded in the previous 12 months. During the first COVID-19 lockdown, monthly activity substantially decreased (-21.1% April 2020), but the rate of patients with a medication review coded in the previous 12 months was not substantially impacted according to our classification (-10.5% March 2021). There was regional and ethnic variation (March 2022 - London 21.9% vs North West 33.6%; Chinese 16.8% vs British 33.0%). Following introduction of a new “structured medication review” the rate increased from 0.07% in September 2020 to 2.9% March 2022, with higher percentages in high risk groups (March 2022 - care home residents 34.1%, 90+ years 13.1%, high risk medications 10.2%). The most used SNOMED CT medication review code across the study period was Medication review done - 314530002 (59.5%).
We have reported a substantial reduction in the monthly rate of medication reviews during the pandemic but rates recovered by the end of the study period.