Mismanaged medicine’s criminal consequences
October 19, 2017
Blackfords LLP solicitor advocate Emma Harris, who has previously represented directors of care homes before the Care Standards Tribunal, and Consultant Philip Williams, who has represented a number of care homes, discuss the potentially criminal consequences of mismanaging medication.
“Many people may be unaware, but significantly mismanaged or incorrectly administered medication can have severe criminal consequences for care homes.
“In my experience, 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.
“Care homes have to manage a variety of regulatory issues in the course of their day-to-day operating. One of the biggest issues which must be addressed is the correct storage, administration and management of medication.
“The Care Quality Commission states that 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.”
Consultant at the firm Philip Williams, who has represented a number of care homes, said “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 – who after all is of the utmost importance at all times.”
“To avoid falling foul of the regulations, 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.
“As with all the policies and procedures within a care home, each resident or service user’s tailored care plan should draw from the general safety mechanisms outlined in the policies and procedures documents. Policy documents should be clear, written in plain English and cover all the necessary aspects.”
“Training is another essential area. Many of the difficulties we see arise as a result of time not being taken to ensure staff are trained to the specific care home standards.
“Ensure that 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 managing any incident can be significant to the eventual outcome.
“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 over-reporting, as opposed to missing anything which could subsequently cause them issue. Failure to report can be as serious as an incident itself.
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Emma Harris is a qualified barrister who cross-qualified as a solicitor in 2011. She specialises in regulatory law, representing clients including directors of care homes and environmental firms in appeals before the Care Standards Tribunal and other professional bodies.
Philip Williams is a consultant at the firm, specialising in the defence of complex criminal investigations, regulatory and disciplinary matters and is recognised nationally as being a leader in his field.