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NSFT Pharmacist awarded £350K funding for research

​A Consultant Pharmacist at Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) has been awarded £350,000 to work on an innovative research project to help people with bipolar disorders.

Asta Ratna Prajapati, who is also PhD student at the University of East Anglia (UEA), is the first mental health pharmacist in the country to receive a Health Education England (HEE) / National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) Clinical Doctoral Research Fellowship funding award.

The award will support Mr Prajapati over four years to complete the NSFT / UEA-led research programme, which aims to create a tool to help identify patients with bipolar disorders who are struggling to take their medication and will also identify their reasons. 

Bipolar disorder is a long-term mental health condition which causes severe mood swings and makes it difficult for patients to maintain a stable job or relationships, reduces their quality of life and increases suicide risk.

Medication is the most common and effective treatment, but around 40% of patients do not take their medication as prescribed. Called ‘non-adherence’, this can cause symptoms to return leading to hospitalisation, difficulties in daily life and higher risk of suicide.

Conservative estimates from the Department of Health are that non-adherence to medication is costing NHS £500 million a year, coupled with the additional cost of personal suffering. Therefore, improving medication adherence is of significant clinical importance as well as considerable economic benefits. For health service providers and service users, it is very important to find out when patients are non-adherent and then work with them, and sometimes their carers, to find the best solutions to manage their condition.

Mr Prajapati will work with a team of psychiatrists and other healthcare professionals, health psychologists, researchers, patients and carers to develop the tool, which will identify individual reasons and difficulty in taking medication as prescribed, enabling individualised patient-centred support to be provided.

The aim is to improve medication adherence and thereby improve patients’ health and quality of life.

Mr Prajapati, who joined the NSFT in August 2014 as Clinical Pharmacy Manager, said: “I was absolutely delighted when I heard I had been awarded the funding. I am very proud to receive this highly competitive funding from such a prestigious organisation. I am very grateful for all the support I received from colleagues at NSFT, UEA and others. And, I am very excited to start this research to help our patients receive the best from their medications. The project has the potential to make a real difference in our patients.” 

Mr Prajapati will be supported on the research programme by senior clinicians at NSFT, academics at UEA and health psychologists from the University of Cambridge and University of Lyon. Mr Prajapati will coordinate the completion of this study as part of his PhD studies and Fellowship of the HEE / NIHR. 

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