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Program spots side-effects quickly

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Practice nurses have welcomed a time-saving computer program that could help determine whether a patient’s reported symptoms are caused by drug side-effects.

The program could mean an end to trawling through the BNF or drug product characteristic sheets to determine whether a patient’s symptoms could be related to their medication.

The Side Effects Responsibility Search (SERS) system was developed by Liverpool GP Dr David Orlans.

Using the system, nurses would enter a patient’s symptoms into the practice computer. The program would then search the patient’s script list for any links between the recognised side-effects of their medication and their reported symptoms.

‘Lots of patients come in because of [drug] side-effects. But doctors and nurses do not have time to search through the BNF,’ said Dr Orlans.

‘Being able to just click a button would save valuable time and improve patient safety by reducing the number of inappropriate referrals, and the amount of time patients spend suffering from side-effects of their drugs.’

Janette Drury, practice nurse at the Linkway Medical Practice in West Bromwich, agreed. ‘Looking up side-effects and interactions takes so much time and the search relies on the doctor or nurse,’ she said.

‘If there is a computerised system to carry out the search, it would be so much more efficient and less likely to miss something.

She added: ‘As a nurse who has just completed the independent prescribers’ course I welcome this with open arms.’

Caroline Levie, team leader for coronary heart disease specialist nurses in County Durham PCT, said: ‘This is a novel idea and could be useful to nurses working in primary care. Using a computerised tool instead of the BNF [to look for side-effects] could prove to be much less time-consuming.’

Dr Orlans suggested the system could also be incorporated into programs used by pharmacists, emergency departments and NHS walk-in centres.

The idea is being developed further by software company First DataBank Europe.

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