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Drug error figures in care homes too high

Report shows that many care homes make mistakes when issuing drugs to residents

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8 October 2009

A report on a study carried out by Professor Nick Barger of the University of London School of Pharmacy has been published in the journal Quality and Safety in Health Care. The study revealed that seven out of ten people living in a care home have experienced medication errors, such as being given the wrong drug, or the wrong dose of a drug. While the study did not look at the effect these errors had on care home residents it did observe errors which had caused harm, or were likely to.

Andrew Harrop‚ Head of Policy for Age Concern and Help the Aged‚ said:

'It is shocking that older people are still not receiving the correct help and support to take medication in care homes. Medication is a basic part of care for many older people and is essential to their health and wellbeing. This is just one of the many flaws in the current care system which can have a huge impact on the quality of life for many older people.

People living in care homes often have serious health problems that are exacerbated by the aging process. The report said that they are ‘particularly susceptible to adverse drug reactions’. Residents living in care homes may not be aware that they may in fact be eligible to have their needs fully met by the NHS. Because of the high threshold for recognising a primary health need, care homes are coping with residents suffering increasingly complex medical needs and the current NHS contribution towards nursing care for those individuals and community health services input they get is often inadequate.

The human rights team at Leigh Day & Co has acted for a number of elderly clients or their families who have received inadequate services, and a common complaint has been a failure to consider properly the prescription and dispensing of medication. Partners Frances Swaine and Alison Millar who have represented a number of elderly people both welcome the publication of the report but are very concerned by its findings. Frances said:

"It is not right for those very vulnerable people entrusted to the care of care staff, nurses and general practitioners in care homes to be misprescribed medication. There should be more training for those providing care, making decisions about medication and dispensing it, so that the effects of medication on the elderly are understood. Without that adequate training mistakes can be made and there can be a reduction in the dignity for patients in care homes who are entirely dependent on care staff to protect their dignity."

For more information and a free initial consultation please contact Alison Millar or Frances Swaine on 020 7650 1200.

Information was correct at time of publishing. See terms and conditions for further details.

Information was correct at time of publishing. See terms and conditions for further details.

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