18 December 2023
By Kathryn Smith, Chief Executive, Social Care Institute for Excellence
This year, I travelled across the UK to have a first-hand account of innovative ways of providing care and support to people in order to help them to live their best lives. SCIE is dedicated to both learning more about innovation in the social care sector and sharing best practices. In September, I was joined by my colleague Helen Broad in traveling to Manchester to meet with YOURmeds, a company that has excelled in medication management. We visited a woman who uses the device as well as speaking to the local authorities and NHS organisations to learn more about their experiences using YOURmeds and scaling this innovative practice.
The YOURmeds system uses a device, filled by the user’s local pharmacy, to manage medication. The device has a screen and numbered pillboxes that are large enough for those who have difficulty with their sight. It emits a noise when it is time for the user to take their medication and tells the user on the screen which pillbox to open. If the medication was never accessed, a notification is sent to the user’s preferred contact person such as family member or care worker for them to remind the device user to take their medication. At the end of the prescription, it is easy to see which medication was taken, or not, and can better help the user’s medical team determine the efficacy of their drug protocol.
When I met with the YOURmeds user, she shared that the device greatly improved her quality of life. It helped her manage her medication and prevent unnecessary visits from care workers disrupting her daily routine. It had also reduced her medication, as regular medication had got some aspects of her condition under control. She would encourage others to use this device.
I also met with both health and social care teams from Manchester and Stoke-on-Trent who use YOURmeds. They felt that the use of YOURmeds greatly helped both their constituency and their bottom line as they now did not need to send as many care workers to people’s homes to ensure that medication was being taken. However, despite being used in a city as large as Greater Manchester it is currently only reaching between 30 – 40 people. When we asked why the device is not being used more widely given its success, it was reported that funding for medication management falls into a grey area. Medication is normally funded by the NHS. However, ensuring people take their medication falls to social care workers. This system is an example of the importance of further joining up NHS and social care programming as both are needed to help people live fulfilled and independent lives.
YOURmeds is simple in its innovation which is part of its appeal. Not every innovation needs to have a ‘wow’ factor, sometimes it’s the smaller actions that can make the greatest change in someone’s lived experience. This is a simple but effective solution to medication management. It would be worth further investigation of the barriers as to why this has not been taken up more widely. There is some concern by users that they will lose personal contact if they do not have a care worker checking in on their medication. I believe this should be looked into further as that personal connection is important. However, I wonder if reducing the number of short personal contacts could lead the way to more meaningful interactions in the long-term since care workers might not be as thinly stretched to address medication uptake as well as all other responsibilities.
I greatly enjoyed my time in Manchester speaking with people with lived experience with the YOURmeds device and local authorities’ experiences in supplying them. I look forward to going on more site visits in the future to learn more about innovative products and programmes across the UK.