The Patients Association has launched its Care Home Charter to improve medication practices for people living in care homes across the UK. Developed in collaboration with experts in health and social care and endorsed by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence and the Royal College of Nursing among other organisations, the Charter aims to help support residents living in care homes to be actively involved in decisions about their care. It also provides a guideline for care home staff to follow in order to improve medication practices.
The Charter consists of a nine-point guideline for care home residents and their families, and is designed to promote and advance shared decision-making and improve patient safety. It emphases the importance of residents being involved in regular monitoring and review of medications, and states that medicines should only be given with a resident’s consent, unless they lack the capacity to provide it. In addition, the Charter also provides a nine-point guideline for care home staff to follow, stating that medicines should not be hidden by staff in food or drink, unless it is in a resident’s best interests and all legal requirements have been met. Other key points include that staff should ensure that an advance care home plan is in place for the resident, and that optimal oral and dental care is provided.
The Charter was developed in collaboration with an expert panel consisting of nurses, pharmacists, care home managers and speech and language therapists, with additional input from representatives from national bodies including NHS England and the Care Quality Commission.
It has been piloted in 22 care homes across England, Wales and Northern Ireland and has been endorsed by several organisations including the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence and the Royal College of Nursing.
The Charter is the culmination of a number of years of work by the Patients Association.
In 2015, after a caller to the Patients Association helpline reported the difficulties a care home resident with dysphagia (swallowing difficulties) was enduring with their medication, the charity conducted a survey to investigate how widespread the problem was. Publishing the findings in a report that year, the Association found that in some cases, and against medical practice, medicines were being crushed for care home residents with dysphagia to swallow. Worryingly, we also found that some care home staff weren’t trained to spot the signs of a person with swallowing difficulties.