‘Know, Check, Ask’ before you take medication urges Minister

Date published: 30 September 2022

Both patients and Healthcare staff have a central role to play in ensuring the safe use of medicines, Health Minister Robin Swann has said.

Health Minister, CMO, CPO with Eve Booker, Service User and HSC staff
Health Minister, CMO, CPO with Eve Booker, Service User and HSC staff

Minister for Health Robin Swann was speaking at an event to mark the roll out of the ‘Know, Check, Ask’ Campaign across all healthcare sectors in Northern Ireland. The aim of the campaign is to increase awareness and understanding about the importance of using medicine safely.

Minister Swann said:  “This campaign plays a key role in supporting the Department of Health’s strategic plan ‘Transforming Medication Safety in Northern Ireland’ to improve safe practices with medicines and embed a medication safety culture within our population.

Minister Robin Swann added: “This campaign has been developed in line with the World Health Organization’s Global Patient Safety Challenge ‘Medication without Harm’.  It gives us the opportunity to highlight patient safety as an absolute priority for everyone working in or receiving treatment across health and social care in Northern Ireland.”   

The call for action of the campaign is for:

Patients to Know Check Ask – Before you take it.

KNOW your medicines and keep an up-to-date list.
CHECK that you are using your medicines in the right way.
ASK your healthcare professional if you’re not sure.

Health Care staff to Know Check Ask – Before you give it

KNOW your medications.
CHECK you have the right: patient, medicine, route, dose and time.
ASK your patient if they understand and ask your colleagues when you are unsure.

Health Minister Robin Swann with Service User Eve Booker.
Health Minister Robin Swann with Service User Eve Booker.

Minister Swann added “I want to encourage and help patients to be more curious about their medication, know what medication they are using, how to use it safely and feel able to ask their health care professionals questions about their medicines.  Patients should also feel able and confident to report problems with their medication early and so help reduce avoidable harm.”

“It is key that all health and social care staff recognise their roles and responsibilities to ensure that medicines are used safely. In addition to those that prescribe, administer or dispense medication, many other staff groups are directly or indirectly involved in the medication use process. This includes healthcare assistants, social and domiciliary care workers, porters and medical secretaries who interact directly with patients and their medication.”

“A culture of medication safety across health and social care is essential to ensuring patient safety. Everyone has a role to play in medication safety.”

Chief Medical Officer, Prof Sir Michael McBride said, “In Northern Ireland we are fortunate to benefit from effective systems for the safe prescribing, dispensing and administration of medicines. However, we know that errors can still occur and we are committed to supporting improvements that aim to reduce or prevent the risk of harm to patients.”

“The Know, Check, Ask campaign will support improvements by helping to equip both healthcare staff and patients with the knowledge and skills they need to be safe with medication. I would urge everyone to ‘Know, Check, Ask’ about medication.”

Chief Pharmaceutical Officer, Mrs Cathy Harrison said “I am delighted that the Know Check Ask campaign is now being rolled out to healthcare professionals across Health and Social Care. 

The campaign was initially launched in community pharmacies earlier in 2022 and community pharmacists will continue to be involved in supporting patients to Know, Check, Ask and become more involved in decisions about their medication.”

“I strongly encourage anyone who takes regular medicines to keep an up-to-date ‘My Medicines list’ of key information about their current medication and to take this with them to all healthcare appointments.”

Finally, I appeal to healthcare professionals and the people of Northern Ireland to join us on this medication safety journey. ”

The Know Check Ask campaign toolkit includes a range of resources; My Medicines Leaflet, video testimonials from healthcare staff, patients and service users, video animations, printed posters and leaflets.  Materials can be downloaded from the HSCNI website and shared on social media platforms.

For more information on the ‘Know Check Ask’ campaign or to receive hard copies of any of the resources, please contact Regional Safer Medicines, Strategic Planning and Performance Group, email medicine.safety@hscni.net   


Notes to editors: 

  1. For media enquiries please contact the DoH Press Office by email pressoffice@health-ni.gov.uk.
  2. Follow us on Twitter @healthdpt
  3. The Executive Information Service operates an out of hours service For Media Enquiries Only between 1800hrs and 0800hrs Monday to Friday and at weekends and public holidays. The duty press officer can be contacted on 028 9037 8110.

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