Tens of thousands of elderly people in care homes are being prescribed at least seven different medications and given 10 or more drugs each day. The NHS has announced plans to recruit and send hundreds of pharmacists to check care homes amid fears pensioners are being “kept quiet” under sedation.
NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens said: “There’s increasing evidence that our parents and their friends – a whole generation of people in their 70s, 80s and 90s – are being over medicated in care homes. The policy of ‘a pill for every ill’ is often causing frail older people more health problems than it’s solving.”
Eileen Chubb, director of the Compassion in Care charity, told the Daily Express: “A generation of elderly people are being put under a chemical cosh and because they are elderly they can’t clear the drugs from their systems. These build up in the system and you can end up with lethal doses.
“The people most at risk are the ones with least of a voice, such as people with dementia. Families should be asking their GPs for evidence that justifies their loved ones being given these drugs.”
The move comes amid fears care homes still use anti-psychotic drugs to quieten dementia patients, despite calls to cut their use.
NHS trials have shown that pharmacists can improve a patient’s quality of life by reducing unnecessary use of medicine, which also brings down emergency hospital admissions.
In East and North Hertfordshire, a pilot trial across 37 care homes found that an annual drug cost saving of £249 per patient and one hospital readmission could be avoided for every 12 people reviewed.
Sandra Gidley, of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s English Board, said: “This significant investment highlights the growing recognition that pharmacists who support care home residents can reduce medicine waste, improve efficiency and provide better health outcomes.”
GLADYS BURR, 89, WAS LEFT IN ‘MEDICINE HAZE’
GLADYS Burr was left “in a daze” after her medication was increased, allegedly without consulting her relatives.
Mother-of-three Gladys, 89, from Inverurie, Aberdeenshire, had 54 accidents in the four months before her death at Mowat Court care home in Stonehaven.
The Care Inspectorate found she had been given a sedative and an anti-psychotic drug which was prescribed, her family said, without her knowledge. T
he watchdog upheld 11 complaints against the home and found that Gladys was “illegally” restrained. Her son Sandy said his mother, who died in 2012, spent her last few months in a “drug-induced haze”.
GETTING MEDICINE RIGHT IS CRUCIAL, SAYS NADIA KHALAM
SENIOR MANAGER AT AGE UK
“FOR older people in care homes, getting medication right is absolutely crucial to their wellbeing and quality of life. Increasing numbers of people are on large amounts of medication, often for long periods, and with little or no opportunity for a full review.
But there are still millions living on their own, on a number of medications for years, without knowing they are due a review, or perhaps even how to go about getting one.
The local pharmacy is often closer and more accessible than GP surgeries. When time with a GP can often be short, the support offered by pharmacies can make a significant difference to the health and wellbeing of older people.”