Care home residents should have the same involvement in decisions about their treatment as patients living in their own home, according to latest guidance.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence has published guidance for those involved in handling, prescribing and other decision-making about medicines for care home residents.
NICE noted that evidence suggested drug errors were commonplace. It cited one study that found over 90% of 345 residents were exposed to at least one potential error over three months.
The institute said the “starting point” for its guideline was that residents should have the same involvement in decisions about their care and treatment – and have the right to access appropriate services and support – as other patients.
“Good communication is a strong theme throughout this guideline”
Prescribers should assume care home residents are able to make decisions about their own medicines, it said, but should check if they are concerned.
NICE also said care homes should have a written policy on medicines, stating for example how staff should keep records, deal with mistakes, and review and accurately list the drugs residents are taking.
Alaster Rutherford, chair of the NICE guideline development group, said: “Good communication is a strong theme throughout this guideline, whether through the active participation of residents, record-keeping or when care transfers between settings.”
The guideline also covers the processes for storing and disposing of medicines, their administration by care home staff – including covertly – and treating minor ailments with non-prescription drugs, such as paracetamol, for headaches or indigestion.
“The sheer volume of medicines is a big problem to most care homes”
Ian Turner, chair of the Registered Nursing Home Association and member of the guideline development group, said: “The key is cracking the medicines review process. The sheer volume of medicines is a big problem to most care homes.
“Currently we are still moving towards understanding how often residents should have their medicines reviewed and what that review should involve,” he said. “This guideline will be extremely helpful in providing clarity around this issue, and in ensuring that medicines reviews are meaningful to everybody.”