Pharmacists in the care home

Posted in: General Information 19th June 2019

According to a recent report, care home residents account for around 250,000 emergency hospital admissions each year. However, it’s estimated that 40 per cent of these admissions could be avoided with a better understanding of a resident’s health needs and the medication they consume. But what can be done to reduce this figure?

With concerns that care home residents are consuming more medication than needed, the UK Government has introduced the Medicines Optimisation in Care Homes (MOCH) Programme. Through the programme, pharmacists will be sent into care homes to carry out checks on residents with the aim to reduce hospital admissions by four in ten.

MOCH Programme

Funded by the NHS Long Term Plan, the MOCH programme has been implemented to provide care homes and their residents with a number of clinician-led benefits.

Pharmacists would be able to provide regular medication reviews, meaning that patients take the right type of medication for their condition. Pharmacists would also be able to support patients and carers alike in providing training and support on administering and storing medication safely.

In addition, the MOCH programme plans to assign pharmacists and pharmacy technicians to care homes to perform general health and wellbeing checks. This will help care home staff to achieve a better understanding of the individual patient needs and improve patient wellbeing, ultimately working to reduce unnecessary hospital admissions and allowing more leverage for the stretched NHS.

Safety is key

On average, care home residents consume seven different medications each day, with many more taking up to ten different medications. This quantity of medication can cause concerns, if not managed correctly, that elderly residents may be consuming more medication than needed. This could be particularly dangerous if taken in the wrong dosage, or the medication is administered at the wrong time of day, which may result in the need for hospital intervention.

Through the MOCH programme, pharmacists will be able to asses a resident and their medical situation in their home environment. This means it will be clearer to assess if the medication is being consumed and administered correctly, and any issues can be dealt with in the home, rather than in hospital.  

The MOCH impact

It is widely reported that pharmacies are an underused resource of healthcare advice and support, as often patients will go to the doctors to discuss their problem rather than considering a pharmacy.

Although pharmacies are limited by funding, the MOCH programme could benefit further pharmacies as it can educate people, raise awareness and allow for better understanding of the support and advice that pharmacies can offer. It will help to demonstrate that a doctor does not always need to be a first point of call, particularly for routine conditions like coughs, colds and blood pressure monitoring.

By educating patients on the resources available to them beyond the doctors surgery, patient wait times will be reduced, unnecessary admissions will be avoided, and costs will be saved.

Alternative solutions

It’s understandable that elderly patients will require more consideration and assistance when it comes to their medication, than others. However, aside from extended support from MOCH assigned pharmacists, there are additional solutions available to help improve the health of care home residents while reducing hospital admissions.

Incorporating patient information labels, such as the extensive range available from Valley Northern, provide instructions or reminders of how to store and administer the medication inside the box. Medication dispensing trays can also help with patient safety as medication can be organised into specific days and times to ensure the correct amount of medication is taken when it should be.

Some dispensing trays are even installed with an alarm that sounds when it is time for the patient to take their medication and are able to recognise how much medication should be taken at that time. The medication is then automatically dispensed, reducing the risk of administration errors.

The amount of medication consumed daily by care home residents is unavoidable, so there needs to be more efficient ways of monitoring medication to ensure that avoidable hospital admissions are reduced, and patient health is improved.

With an estimated 100,000 avoidable hospital admissions from care home residents annually, it’s evident that there is a problem with the management and administration of medication for care home residents. The MOCH programme, routine pharmacist medication checks and aids such as medication labels and dispensing trays are all effective ways towards reducing hospital admissions and improving the health of care home residents.

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