Programme to tackle over-medication in care homes launched

Council to take action on standards in private care market

NHS England has recruited medical and clinical staff as part of its £20m programme to help prevent care home residents being given too much medication.

Residents are prescribed an average of seven medicines a day, with many taking ten or more, costing the NHS an estimated £250m each year.

Additional staff include 200 clinical pharmacists and pharmacy technicians who will support residents to improve quality of life, cut hospital stays and reduce over-medication.

The scheme is part of a package of measures to improve older people’s health and care in The NHS Long Term Plan.

Across the country, 14 areas have trialled the scheme so far.

Around 400,000 people live in England’s 17,000 nursing and residential care homes. They spend around two million days in hospital each year and account for about 250,000 emergency hospital admissions. Some 35%-40% of these admissions are thought to be avoidable through action such as tackling over medication.

The programme will also help to reduce the number of visits to A&E caused by older patients’ medicine use – studies suggest one in ten older people’s admissions to hospital is linked to their medicine intake, with the majority of these thought to be avoidable with better care and support.

Professor Alistair Burns, national clinical director for dementia and older people’s mental health at NHS England, said: ‘Older people deserve the best possible support and with many care home residents living with complex conditions, bringing in extra expert health advice will mean the NHS can reduce avoidable drug use, improve care and free up vital funding for better treatment.

‘Strengthening the ties between GPs and care homes made a huge difference to residents’ health when we tested the scheme and the NHS Long Term Plan will mean older people in every part of the country soon will benefit from tailored, specialist support in their care home.’

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.

Ridge said rather than assuming there is 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.