Medication administration failures in Scotland’s care homes require scrutiny

The provision of pharmaceutical care in Scottish care homes is in need of a ‘radical examination’, according to the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS).

A report from the RPS, ‘Improving Pharmaceutical Care in Care Homes’, specifies that a “more robust contract system and service level agreement is required between community pharmacy services and care home providers”, in order to reduce the likelihood of medication errors occurring.

RPS finds that the increasing complex needs of care home residents has not been matched by furthering the expertise of care home workers, which remains crucial to the future performance of services because of an ageing population and the reality that users with more moderate care needs are increasingly directed towards social care services instead.

Key recommendations from the report include the aligning of care home and NHS services, the establishment of a nationally accredited training programme, adherence to a multidisciplinary assessment tool, the reduction of bureaucracy and the prioritisation of integrated partnership working in order to achieve care that is more person-centred.

The Society’s report acknowledges that the challenges care homes face have developed significantly over recent years, becoming far more specialist in outlook and taking on many treatments that would previously have been taken on by hospitals.

CEO of advanced medication systems provider Protomed, Norman Niven, speaking to, welcomed many of the report’s objectives but disagreed that care home providers are not already embracing these challenges:

“We welcome any initiative that improves safety for patients, residents and service users and makes the fullest use of the pharmacist’s unique position to organise, manage and provide medicines and advice to care homes. We have long advocated the need for a standardised training programme for pharmacists providing services to care homes, as well as the need to monitor the use of all drugs to ensure their appropriateness.

“What the report does not recognise are the massive and positive changes being implemented in all UK care homes, through the use of medication management systems and innovative technology. Given the movement in Scotland towards original pack dispensing and away from the use of medication management systems, negative actions seem to be a great deal louder than the laudable initiatives in the report.

“We must ensure that safety comes before all financial considerations, yet current action and directives on the ground suggest otherwise.”

RPS have also called for providers to fight against the negative image of life in a care home, challenging the sector to adopt a ten-year target to transform public attitudes.