Care Homes

Bring more pharmacists into care homes. It’s the most effective, efficient way to manage the complex needs and medications of Britain’s most vulnerable patients.

Care home residents are some of our most vulnerable patients. Too often, they’re on a long list of medicines that hasn’t been reviewed in years. Some doing more harm than good.

We’re calling on the NHS to bring pharmacists into care homes, as part of a multidisciplinary team including doctors and nurses. A pharmacist would take ownership for the whole system of medicines and their use in a care home.

They work with residents directly to manage the medicines they’re on and their complex interactions, and modifying the prescriptions as their residents’ needs change. Their presence would have an added benefit: it would free up nurses to care for residents in a more holistic way.

In 2017, RPS encouraged the NHS to invest £20 million in creating 180 new jobs for pharmacists in care homes.

The result is clear, pharmacists in care homes:

  • Increase care
  • Reduce harm
  • Reduce medicines waste.

It’s what care home residents deserve.

Policy documents

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“We welcome the opportunity to further develop the constructive and valuable relationship that GPs have with our pharmacist colleagues, in a way that can increase our patients’ safety and save the NHS money.

“Our patients who live in care homes are invariably living with multiple, long-term conditions, and as a result are often taking multiple medications, which can lead to health problems in itself. Managing polypharmacy effectively is key to ensuring our patients in care homes are kept safe and only taking medicines that they need to – this also reduces medicine waste, and at a time when the health service is running with scant resources, this is particularly important.

“With GPs and our teams under incredible resource and workforce pressures, the suggestion that pharmacists to take on some of the medicine management responsibilities in care homes is definitely worth exploring – and we thank the Royal Pharmaceutical Society for putting these propositions forward.”

Dr Maureen Baker, Chair of the Royal College of GPs

“Making sure that older people are taking the right medicines should be an absolute priority . We know that increasing numbers of older people are on large amounts of medication, often for long periods of time, and with little or no opportunity for a full review of what they are using. There is good evidence to suggest that people on large numbers of medicines are often getting little if any benefit from some of them and that they’d be positively  better off without others.

“For older people living in care homes, many of whom are coping with multiple long-term conditions and frailty, getting their medicines right is crucial to their wellbeing. We welcome the idea of having a pharmacist attached to every care home. We would also like to see discussions taking place routinely with older residents, helping to identify the best medicines for them as their needs change and helping them to manage any side effects.”

Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK

“The NHS was set up to provide health care from the cradle to the grave. Yet from our National Helpline we hear very worrying trends regarding the care of older people. Our recent survey on swallowing difficulties (dysphagia) in care homes found that carers were compromising patient safety by changing how the medicine was administered, such as crushing up tablets, without understanding the consequences of such action. Clearly having a named pharmacist responsible for resident’s medication in care homes would dramatically improve patient safety and the effectiveness of the many medicines taken, not just for residents with swallowing difficulties but for all residents, by ensuring that they were taking the right medicines in the right way at the right time.”

Katherine Murphy, Chief Executive, Patients Association 

“One in four beds in care homes are occupied by someone with diabetes. Many of these patients will have complex health needs, which may involve taking a number of different types of medicines, so having pharmacists working in care homes will help to ensure that the best choices are made around people’s diabetes and medicine management. This is really important because diabetes is a very serious health condition that, poorly managed, can lead to debilitating and life-threatening complications, both short-term and long-term, such as extremely low and high blood glucose levels, stroke, amputation and blindness. These complications can have a particularly devastating impact on older and vulnerable people.”

Simon O’Neill, Diabetes UK Director of Health Intelligence and Professional Liaison