Guidance on when care assistants can administer medicines to nursing home residents has been launched in a bid to clear up confusion in the sector.
The guidance, which was developed by the University of Leeds for the Department of Health, makes it clear care assistants can administer medication with the right training and assessment.
Enabling support workers to give medicines can free up registered nurses employed in homes to do other essential care tasks. However, concerns about whether this is legal or appropriate have prevented some settings from doing this.
“The guidance makes it clear that it is legal for care assistants to undertake this enhanced role, as long as they have been appropriately trained and their competence is regularly assessed,” said Professor Karen Spilsbury, who was involved in writing the document.
“This will free up time for registered nurses, so they can engage with residents and spend time on other important areas of work,” said Professor Spilsbury who is investment chair in nursing at the university’s school of healthcare.
She cited caring for residents with complex care needs, managing complex therapy and medication regimes or supervising other care staff as examples.
A review found there was no evidence administration of medicines by care assistants increased the number of medication errors as long as they had the right training, assessment and support – alongside robust procedures for reporting any issues.
“It provides much-needed clarity not just across the care home sector”
As a minimum, the guidance said training should cover the supply, storage and disposal of medicines, as well as how to administer them safely and keep accurate records and issues like accountability and confidentiality.
Training should also include common issues linked with errors such as the need to check allergies and drug sensitivities, the fact errors are more common in the morning and that interruptions during preparing and administering medicine are more likely to lead to mistakes.
The guidance has been welcomed by care home providers and regulators.
Andrea Sutcliffe, the Care Quality Commission chief inspector of adult social care, said: “This new guidance reinforced the importance of providers making sure care assistants are trained and supported to carry out medicine tasks in a safe and effective manner for the benefit of the people they are caring for.”
The National Care Forum, which represents not-for-profit health and care providers, also gave the guidance its backing.
“It provides much-needed clarity not just across the care home sector but also the wider health and social car system,” said policy and communications manager Sharon Blackburn. “It is good for residents, care staff and nurses.”
However, she noted that many of the body’s members already had protocols in place to support care assistants to administer medication.