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  • 13 May 2019
  • 3 min read

NHS experts sent into care homes to tackle over-medication

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The NHS has recruited experts to work in care homes to prevent patients from over-using medication.

This is part of the NHS long-term plan to improve older peoples' health care.

According to the NHS, ‘an army of NHS experts’ have been sent into care homes to prevent residents from being given too many medicines, as part of the NHS Long Term Plan to improve elderly health care.

Care home residents are given an average of 7 medicines a day, with many taking 10 or more, which costs the NHS around £250 million each year, the NHS says.

Charities proclaim fears of the elderly being subjected to a ‘chemical cosh’.

The NHS has recruited medical and clinical experts, including 200 pharmacists and pharmacy technicians, who will work to prevent over-prescribing and improve the quality of life of the care home residents, whilst also reducing NHS costs.

This is part of a £20 million programme to ‘reduce unnecessary medication of patients’ and ensuring that the right treatment is being provided nationally.

“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.” - Professor Alistair Burns, National Clinical Director for Dementia and Older People’s Mental Health at NHS England

According to NHS statistics, 400,000 people live in 17,000 nursing and residential care homes in England, with one in seven residents being aged 85 or over.

Elderly residents, in particular, suffer from long-term conditions such as dementia, high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease.

On average, they spend 2 million days in hospital a year and makeup around a quarter of a million of emergency hospital admissions - it is thought that 35%-40% of these admissions can be avoided by preventing over medication.

The NHS says that this programme will also cut down the number of A&E visits caused by elderly patients’ medication use.

Studies indicate that one in 10 elderly admissions to hospital is linked to their medication intake - this is thought to be avoidable with ‘better care and support’.

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.

“Rather than assuming there’s 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.”

Failure to fully understand residents’ care needs can mean health issues can go missed, risking frailty and falls among older people, contributing to longer hospital stays and long term health problems, says the NHS.

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