Award-winning project shown to improve patient outcomes

An evaluation of the iSIMPATHY project, which supported people taking multiple medicines, shows it improved patient outcomes and safety while delivering significant climate and sustainability benefits for the wider health system.

What was the iSIMPATHY project?

iSIMPATHY was a €3.1M EU-funded, Scottish Government-led, cross-border project which ran across Scotland, Northern Ireland and the border areas of the Republic of Ireland. The project delivered transformational change at scale through partnership working and sharing expertise.

Using a multidisciplinary, collaborative approach centred around pharmacist-led medicines reviews, this innovative project ensured the best and most sustainable outcomes with medication use in people taking multiple medicines (known as ‘polypharmacy’).

Taking multiple medicines can be appropriate but can also be problematic – for example when increased risk of harm from interactions between drugs or between drugs and diseases outweighs the intended benefits.

What did the iSIMPATHY evaluation show?

The evaluation showed clear benefits to patient safety and understanding of their medicines, as well as sustainability and economic benefits through cost saving on medicines and reducing their use when clinically appropriate.

Key findings of the report include:

  • 82% of interventions were rated clinically significant, while 4% of interventions (968) potentially prevented major organ failure or adverse drug reactions of similar clinical importance
  • the appropriateness of medicines improved in 92% of reviews, with an average reduction of one medicine (from 12 to 11)
    economic benefits to the wider healthcare system were identified, with direct medicines cost savings of £13,100 and a potential total of £168,800 savings from avoided healthcare resource usage per 100 reviews
  • patients reported better understanding of their medicines, improved adherence and experienced less harm
  • an average of 7.4 Quality-Adjusted Life Years (QALY) were gained per 100 patients (One QALY is considered equal to a year of life in perfect health)

Awards success and embedding iSIMPATHY findings into practice

iSIMPATHY has set a blueprint for undertaking reviews for people taking multiple medicines and has already been recognised, winning the Health and Wellbeing Award at the 2023 Causeway Awards.

It will have implications in practice in work across NHS Scotland, with work already underway to embed the successful models used by the project in medicines reviews and Patient Reported Outcome Measures which gather views of persons receiving service. An accredited training package on undertaking comprehensive polypharmacy reviews for multidisciplinary professionals is also available on Turas.

The findings will be further applied in practice in Scottish Government’s forthcoming updated Polypharmacy Guidance, to ensure value and sustainability in healthcare and person-centred care in line with realistic medicine. Optimising prescribing also supports our polypharmacy commitment outlined in the NHS Scotland climate emergency and sustainability strategy as this reduces waste, supporting greener and more sustainable care.

Find out more

Find out more and read the full report at