Medicines and transferring care between settings: new guidance

Information about people’s medicines often does not move with them when they transfer between different care settings, says the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, which has just published guidance (see here) to help healthcare professionals and organisations address this problem. Older people and those with long-term conditions are particularly vulnerable to problems arising with their medicines as they move between care settings.

The Department of Health, which requested the guidance, says that having safe systems for managing information and supply of medicines across care settings is likely to reduce avoidable medicines-related hospital admissions, including unnecessary readmissions, as well as reducing harm to patients. The professionals’ guidance cites a 2010 audit involving more than 8600 patients in 50 acute trusts: most patients had at least one incorrect or omitted dose when medicines were checked post-admission. It also describes the case of a patient whose weekly regular oral dose of cytotoxic medicine was wrongly prescribed as daily on transfer home: the patient died.

The guidance for professionals describes four core principles and includes the recommended core content for medicines records when patients transfer between settings.

Many organisations were involved in the development of the guidance and back its publication, including the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, the Care Quality Commission, and the Royal College of Nursing.