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Our offer to help improve safety in care homes

Blog posted by: Connie Sharrock, Senior Programme Manager, Medicine Safety, 26 November 2021.

For the last nine months I have been on a journey to help care homes improve the way they handle medicines, which is an important part of keeping residents safe.

I am part of a national campaign involving all 15 Academic Health Science Networks and our ambition is to contribute to the World Health Organisation Global Patient Safety Challenge: Medication without Harm, which aims to halve the incidence of severe avoidable medication-related harm in the next five years. In the North West Coast, we aim to hit this target by 2024.

Medication errors are a wicked problem.  More than 237 million medication errors are made every year in England leading to many avoidable deaths, harms and admissions to hospital.

In the worst case scenario it is estimated that administration errors in care homes lead to the loss of 5,000 lives per year and £300 million in costs to the NHS, assuming an inpatient stay of 14 days for each incident.

It’s a big deal – and solving the complex problem of making medication safer, is hard.

Medication error rates are highest in care homes, at 42 per cent, despite having fewer numbers of patients than in other settings. (Source: 237+ million medication errors made every year in England | BMJ)

We started this work back in 2019 by asking more than 1,100 care homes up and down the country about their concerns and their good practices in administering medicines.  This led to the publication of a report and we started working with homes last March, to bring the report’s ideas to life.

It’s now time for our Innovation Agency Medication Safety Improvement Sprint – a series of coaching workshops which are free for care home staff to attend, running through to February 2022.

We are holding fortnightly development sessions at which we introduce colleagues to the ideas from the report. These include developing a role as care home medicine safety champion; safety huddles to improve communication; learning from occasions when things go well – and not so well; reducing interruptions on the medication round to prevent errors caused by distraction; and improving communication between care home, GP and community pharmacy.

I am only too aware how difficult it is for care homes to make staff available for any training; they face challenges in filling rotas - and we are facing winter challenges, it is after all the busiest time of the year for care homes and the NHS.

So, I need help in understanding how best to deliver our coaching workshops; we know they will make a big difference in helping staff to avoid errors and give them the assurance that they are doing their best to keep residents safe.

I am appealing to any care home worker or owner who is interested in taking up this offer of free coaching, to contact me so that together we can work out how best to deliver it. 

You can become a care home safety champion and improve care for the benefit of all your residents, now and in the future.

You and your colleagues can register for workshops taking place through November to end of January 2022:

  • Reducing interruptions – sign up here
  • Safety Huddle – sign up here
  • Learning from events – sign up here

Please get in touch soon by emailing me:

Connie Sharrock

Senior Programme Manager, Medicine Safety



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