Guides on covert supply of drugs come under fire

Guidelines on administering drugs without a
patient’s knowledge, issued this week by nursing’s governing body,
will set a “dangerous precedent” according to Help the Aged.

The United Kingdom Central Council for
Nursing, Midwifery and Health Visiting (UKCC) agreed a position
last week which stated that the covert administration of medicine,
disguised in food or drink, can be justified as in the best
interests of patients who actively refuse medication but who lack
the capacity to refuse treatment.

A statement issued by the council said covert
medicine administration should be “a contingency measure rather
than regular practice”.

“Disguising medication simply for the
convenience of the health care team is unacceptable,” it said. But
there was a mixed response from older people’s groups.

Tessa Harding, head of policy at Help the
Aged, condemned the guidelines as setting a “dangerous

“They violate the principle that patients must
consent to treatment, having been fully informed and consulted,”
she said. “The underlying problem is that the law regarding
people’s capacity to decide on health issues in England and Wales
is inadequate and outdated.”

The Alzheimer’s Society welcomed the
guidelines, but called for further debate on the issue.

Harry Cayton, chief executive, said: “We are
concerned that the guidelines don’t go far enough to help ensure
people with Alzheimer’s who are unable to give their consent are
only given drugs which are in their best interests.”

He said the society was disappointed that
users groups had not been consulted on the guidelines.

The UKCC guidelines state that covert
administration of drugs is justified, but that it should follow an
open discussion among the clinical team and patient’s relatives,
and regular attempts should be made to encourage the patient to
take medication voluntarily.

The Position Statement on the Covert
Administration of Medicines

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