Over-prescribing in care homes under attack

Up to 105,000 people with dementia in residential care are wrongly given antipsychotic drugs, an inquiry by MPs has today revealed.

The all-party parliamentary group on dementia found that over-prescribing is a significant problem in many care homes, with experts estimating that 70% of prescriptions are inappropriate.

The group launched the probe last November to establish how antipsychotic drugs are used in care homes. It followed concerns among carers and patient organisations that the drugs were over-prescribed. Research shows they can cause serious side-effects, including sedation and dizziness, and can double the risk of death and treble the risk of stroke.

They are widely used as a response to challenging behaviour in dementia patients, but evidence suggests that most prescribing is inappropriate and used for mild symptoms. The problem is compounded by a lack of dementia care training for care home staff and inadequate care home leadership.

The report, A Last Resort, makes five recommendations it wants  the government to take up in the forthcoming national dementia strategy.

They are: specialist dementia training for all care staff; families to be involved in all decisions about antipsychotics; more pro-active support for care home staff from GPs, community psychiatric nurses and psychiatrists; compulsory medical reviews for dementia patients every 12 weeks; a cost-effectiveness review by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence and a national audit by the Care Quality Commission.

The parliamentary group’s chair, Jeremy Wright, said: “The government must end this needless abuse and make the five-point plan a key element of the national dementia strategy. Best practice guidelines are not enough – safeguards must be put in place to ensure antipsychotics are always a last resort.”

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