More evidence that residential care in Scotland should be improved

A recent report by the Pharmaceutical Society in Scotland (RPSS) called for more powers for pharmacists to review patients’ medical records, after it was revealed that some care homes in Scotland medicate elderly residents without proper checks.  

Age Scotland’s Communications and Campaigns Officer, Doug Anthoney, comments on the report and its disturbing findings. 

Pill bottle

This report from the Royal Pharmaceutical Society Scotland (RPSS) is a welcome contribution a growing body of evidence showing where and how residential care can be improved.

It follows on from the Scottish Parliament’s Health and Sports Committee’s inquiry into the regulation of care for older people, which found incidences in some care homes of residents being medicated to ‘manage their behaviour.’ Poor use or misuse of pharmaceuticals is not just a matter of medical effectiveness; it can also be a human rights issue.

The RPS lays bare the huge risks and uncertainties around medication for care homes residents. They identify a lack of evidence for the clinical effectiveness of many commonly prescribed medicines for frail older people, and that while old age can decrease the ability to physically cope with medication it often coincides with far greater usage.

Research findings released last week show that increasing numbers are living with two or more long term disorders, or ‘multi-morbidity’. It’s clear that as our population ages there’s a massive task ahead to manage increasingly complex long term conditions, a challenge which care homes must be better prepared to meet.

The RPSS’s recommendation that pharmacists and GPs are better integrated with other health professionals working in care homes is particularly welcome. However many care homes are not required to provide nursing care, with the result that staff responsible for the care of older people may be under-skilled to meet their full needs.

Even care homes registered to provide nursing care only have to provide one qualified nurse on duty twenty-four hours a day. Age Scotland would like it to become mandatory that care homes employ nursing staff and that specialist nursing provision in areas such as dementia care is strengthened across the sector.

The RPS is to be commended on highlighting areas of good practice that can be built on. Barely a week goes by without news breaking to erode public confidence in the residential care sector. Yet bad practice, while it can never be tolerated, remains the exception. Recent months have also seen encouraging developments, including plans to introduce annual unannounced inspections for care homes and to reverse inspections cuts.

  • What are your thoughts on the recent news that some elderly care home residents can be medicated without proper due diligence? Let us know in the comments.

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