NHS England Announces Plan to Tackle Over Medication with a Pharmacist in Every Care Home

A new initiative announced this month by NHS England will see thousands of care homes receive additional support from pharmacists in an attempt to reduce overmedication. Older people in care homes take an average of seven medications a day but some take far more, increasing the risk of potentially harmful interactions and side-effects.

Inappropriately prescribed medications can have a significant adverse effect on wellbeing and even lead to hospital admission so any steps to reduce these risks are welcome.

England’s chief pharmaceutical officer Keith Ridge said: “Too many patients are prescribed medicines they may no longer need or may need adjusting, which is why the NHS Long Term Plan is funding expert pharmacy teams across the country to give tailored advice to care home residents and extra support to staff to increase the safety and quality of older people’s care.” “Rather than assuming there’s a pill for every ill, increasing the availability of specialist health advice in care homes will mean residents get more personalised treatment, reduced chances of being admitted to hospital and people will have a better quality of life, for longer.” 

Details of how this new scheme will be rolled out in your area will be announced later this year but you can find out more about avoiding excessive medication use now, with our tips below.

Older people living in care homes frequently suffer from multiple chronic health conditions including dementia, diabetes and heart disease which can result in an approach of “a pill for every ill”. NHS figures suggest that 40% of the 250,000 hospital admissions from care homes each year could be avoided by a reduction in over prescribing so acting promptly to identify potential problems before they arise could help your service users where they want to be, in your care home.

Follow Our 4 Steps to Reducing the Risk of Over Medication

  1. Request Regular Medication Reviews: The NHS’s announcement of additional pharmacists is welcome but there’s nothing to stop you requesting a medication review from your current pharmacist today. If you have any concerns about the medication taken by a person in your care, your pharmacist can offer advice or discuss with the prescribing GP if necessary.
  2. Make Use of PRN Protocols: PRN or ‘as required’ medications are amongst those at greatest risk of being overused, particularly if staff are unclear on the reasons for their use. Having clear PRN protocols explaining the specific circumstances in which a medicine should be used will help to ensure that it’s used only in appropriate circumstances. PRN protocols are particularly valuable for people with dementia or communication difficulties where there may be a need to understand body language or behaviour before deciding whether it’s appropriate  to administer a medicine.
  3. Know the Side-Effects: Knowing the side-effects of medication, particularly newly prescribed items will help you to identify situations where it may be having an adverse effect on a service user. Always keep the patient information leaflet for each medicine easily accessible as well as having a British National Formulary so you can find out more if needed.
  4. Explore Alternatives: Rather than rely solely on medication to treat symptoms of pain agitation or distress, explore alternatives such as massage, complementary therapies or therapeutic activities. Medicines prescribed for pain or agitation are amongst those with the longest list of side-effects so any actions you can take to reduce their use is potentially helpful.