NICE has also produced a series of practical statements to help the NHS and relevant community settings tackle one of the major causes of disability or death in older people: falls.
Professor Gillian Leng, deputy chief executive and director of health and social care at NICE, said: “These two new documents, called quality standards, focus on two specific issues – managing medicines in care homes and falls in older people - where we know inconsistencies exist in the care that people may receive. This can have a detrimental effect on a person’s health and wellbeing, affecting not only their quality of life, but that of their families and carers too. The standards contain practical statements to help health and social care providers, practitioners and commissioners assess and improve the quality of care they deliver in key areas. They highlight the need for the health and social care sectors to work together where possible to ensure people receive the best quality care.”
More than 350,000 people in England and Wales live in a care home, according to official figures. This includes people of any age with learning disabilities or other disabilities, and the elderly. However, mistakes in administering medicines are not uncommon. A 2011 study showed that 9 in 10 care home residents were exposed to at least 1 potential medication administration error over a 3-month period.
The new NICE quality standard for managing medicines in care homes highlights this as a key issue in need of urgent improvement. It lists actions that should be taken to ensure that all necessary health and social care practitioners are aware of residents’ needs and can administer the right medicines to the right person at the right time. This includes:
- Health or social care service providers sending a discharge summary, including details of the person’s current medicines, with a person who transfers to or from a care home
- Prescribers who are responsible for people who live in care homes providing comprehensive instructions for using and monitoring all newly prescribed medicines.
- A multidisciplinary team undertaking medication reviews for people who live in care homes
- The quality standard also says that residents who wish to self-administer their own medicines should be supported to do so as long as it does not put them or others at risk. It is cited as a key issue to improving the quality of life of people living in care homes.
Leonard Cheshire Disability UK nursing advisor, Juliette Millard said: “We welcome the new NICE quality standard on medicines management, which will support disabled and older people living in care homes to make informed, independent choices about their medication and health. Better communication between health professionals, care staff and the people they support will ensure that people get the right medication at the right time in the way they choose. This will not only improve individual health and wellbeing for the thousands of people living in care homes but will increase standards of safety and quality across the system.”