Support for care homes: re-use of medicines during the COVID-19 pandemic

The Department has issued new guidance for care homes and hospices about using medicines labelled for one patient who no longer needs them for another patient: Coronavirus (COVID-19): re-use of medicines in a care home or hospice. The recommendation has been made to help ease pressure on medicines supply during the coronavirus outbreak.

The guidance sets out the standard operating procedure (SOP) for running a medicines re-use scheme – it provides “a framework to run a safe and effective medicines re-use scheme that is in the best interest of patients”.

SOP: key points to note

  • The scheme only applies for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • A risk assessment must be carried out on an individual medicine basis – three factors must be considered during the assessment:
    • No other stocks of the medicine are available in an appropriate time frame (as informed by the supplying pharmacy) and there is an immediate patient need for the medicine.
    • No suitable alternatives for an individual patient are available in a timely manner i.e. a new prescription cannot be issued, and the medicine(s) supplied against it in the conventional manner quickly enough.
    • The benefits of using a medicine that is no longer needed by the person for whom it was originally prescribed or bought, outweigh any risks for an individual patient receiving that unused medicine.
  • Each medicine, including controlled drugs, must be checked that it is suitable for re-use and by a registered healthcare professional.
  • Records should be kept, including details of the registered healthcare professional who performed the check on suitability for reuse (Annex B includes a template log for care homes and hospices)
  • Re-use should only be within a single care home/hospice setting and should not be transferred to another care home or hospice, even those within the same parent organisation.
  • Written permission from all patients must be obtained before a decision can be made to re-use a medicine.
  • Once a decision has been made to re-use a medicine, then medicines re-use pathway (summarised in the flow chart in section 4, page 12 of the SOP) should be followed.

A lot to digest – do get in touch with Amanda Narkiewicz if you have any questions about adopting the new scheme in your care home setting.

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