Blackfords LLP Solicitor Advocate Emma Harris, who has previously represented director of care homes before the care standards tribunal, and consultant Philip Willaims, who has represented a number of care homes, discuss the potentially criminal consequences of mismanaging medication.
Significantly mismanaged or incorrectly administered medication can have severe criminal consequences for care homes. Complying with guidance on the safe administration of medication is among the most paramount regulations put in place by the Care Quality Commission (CQC).
These regulations are in place to protect not just patients, but care homes themselves. Most will be aware of the detrimental impact to the patient’s health, and consequently the home’s reputation, but many may be unaware of the potential legal consequences for the registered manager or provider.
One of the biggest issues which must be addressed is the correct storage, administration and management of medication. The CQC states the registered person must protect residents against the risks associated with the unsafe use and management of medicines. Failure to do so, could have far-reaching consequences for the registered individual entrusted with caring for the patient’s wellbeing, and also for the home itself.
The most significant of these consequences is the prospect of prosecution by the Crown Prosecution Service, local authority, or Health and Safety Executive. The means by which these risks can be reduced are set out in section 13 of the CQC regulations.
We frequently advise clients to remember what this responsibility entails for the registered person. They must make arrangements for the obtaining, recording, handling, using, safe keeping and disposal of medicines. If this is not adhered to there could be devastating effects for the care home, which
could see criminal charges brought.
Quite often a breach of these regulations is entirely avoidable, had the provider simply ensured they were adhering to the correct regulations.
A structured system should be put in place to protect not only the care home, but the patient. We advise providers to focus their efforts on enhancing three key principle areas. Policies and procedures are vitally important to ensuring the correct storage, handling, and administration of medication.
Each resident or service user’s tailored care plan should draw from the general safety mechanisms outlined in the policies and proceduresdocuments. Policy documents should be clear, written in plain English and cover all the necessary aspects.
Secondly, many of the difficulties we see result through time not taken to ensure staff are trained to the specific care home standards. Ensure there is a strong policy on staff training, including continuing professional development.Staff should know the correct methods of administering medication and the recording process.
Finally, incident management is incredibly important. Policy documents are vital. Ensure that every member of staff knows what to do if there is in an
incident, to whom it must be reported and where it should be recorded.
All incidents should be reported and homes should adopt an approach of overreporting, as opposed to missing anything which could subsequently cause them issue. Failure to report can be as serious as an incident itself.