FOLLOW US FacebookTwitter

Community Medication Safety Research

About the research

The Community Medication Safety research is led by Community Development and Health Network (CDHN) and funded by the Health and Social Care Board under the Supporting Medicines Safety Action Plan for NI (Awareness Raising working group ARWG). This is a one-year project. 

The aim of the research is to Discover the social circumstances behind unsafe medication practices and avoidable medication-related harm to inform the implementation of the Transforming Medication Safety in NI plan using a community-based participatory research (CBPR) approach.  


In September 2020, the Department of Health launched a five-year strategic plan to transform medication safety in NI. Transforming Medication Safety in Northern Ireland was produced collaboratively with healthcare professionals and service users from across Northern Ireland in response to the World Health Organisation’s Third Global Patient Safety Challenge ‘Medication without Harm’.

Medicines are the most commonly used medical intervention in NI. At any one time, 70% of people take prescribed or over the counter medicines to treat or prevent ill health. It is estimated that every year in NI, 11.7million medication errors occur. In comparison with other UK countries, the volume and cost of medicines used per head of population in NI is historically higher.[1]  In 2020/21 in NI, the number of prescription items dispensed was over 50% higher in the most deprived areas compared to the least deprived.[2] This research will explore medication safety through a social determinants of health lens. Evidence has shown that social circumstances have a bigger impact on people’s health than genetic makeup or lifestyle behaviours.

The findings of this research will help address health inequalities that may arise with medicines use in current and future services. The evidence will also be used in the planning and implementation of the medication safety plan by identifying potential solutions to support the future roll out of Medication Safety communications campaign including the Know, Check, Ask Medication Safety Campaign, awareness raising for patients and public, staff training and any additional guidance or information. 

Getting involved in the research

Engaging with people and gathering lived experience will help us better understand how social circumstances and health inequalities can impact upon medication safety and people’s health.  To involve people throughout the research, CDHN is using a community-based participatory research (CBPR) approach.

This is a collaborative approach to research that seeks to address a locally relevant health issue, it intentionally and equitably engages researchers and community members in all aspects of the research process. CBPR projects often evolve and change over time as partnerships grow, new people become involved and research participants become research partners. If you are interested, there are a number of ways you can get involved.

Short Survey

A short (5 minute) online survey was developed and open for completion from 01 February 2022 to 21 February 2022.  The purpose of the survey was to find out more about awareness of medication safety in the community and voluntary sector, and to identify potential participants for the stakeholder interviews and workshop participants.

Research steering group

A research steering group has been established who provide oversight and guidance and help inform the research process. It has representatives from people in the community, community and voluntary organisations, health and social care staff, government, and academia.

Stakeholder engagement

The purpose of stakeholder engagement was to further scope out the topic of medication safety with key leaders in the community and voluntary sector and health and social care, to engage in the community based participatory research approach and add rigour to the process.  In total 12 interviews were completed between in March/April 2022


Between June and September 2022, we completed 8 workshops in the community and 4 in health and social care.   The workshops had a dual purpose of raising awareness of medication safety and gathering qualitative evidence through focus groups.  

Research findings 

The research findings and next steps for going forward will be available in Autumn 2022

If you would like to find out more about the work, contact:

Helen McNamee, Research and Policy Manager


T: 028 3026 4606


[1] DHSSPS (2016) Northern Ireland Medicines Optimisation Quality Framework