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Wednesday, March 15, 2017

What is the role of healthcare assistants in administrating drugs to nursing home residents?

Older people in nursing homes are one of the most vulnerable groups in our society. Their medical and support needs are increasingly complicated: most care home residents are over 85 years old and have multiple comorbidities, including dementia and frailty (Office for National Statistics, 2014; British Geriatrics Society, 2011). Many rely on nursing home staff to meet their everyday needs, including taking prescription medicines (Centre for Policy on Ageing, 2012).

Thus, it is important to adopt appropriate medication procedures in care homes (Alldred et al, 2009). To reduce the risk of harm associated with medicine administration, it is recommended that care home staff undertake appropriate training and development, and care home providers are clear on staff's roles and responsibilities (National Care Forum, 2013; 2011).

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (2014) has published guidance on all aspects of managing medicines in nursing homes. However, the role of healthcare assistants in administering medicines to residents of care homes is poorly documented, and whether they should be performing this task has been raised by managers and staff. Often the concern is whether administering medicines is legal, or appropriate, especially if there is a registered nurse in the care home.

Some key points include:
  • Nurses can delegate the administration of medicines to a care assistant, but they are accountable for making sure those medicines are administered correctly
  • Care workers should only administer medicines they have been trained, and are competent, to give
  • Any HCA accepting the delegated task must take responsibility for ensuring their actions are carried out safely and correctly
To read the full set of guidelines, click on the following link:


Alldred D.P. et al. (2009). Care home use of medicines study (CHUMS): Medication errors in nursing and residential care homes- prevalence, consequences, causes and solutions. Retrieved March 13, 2017 from

British Geriatrics Society (2011). Quest for quality. Retrieved March 14, 2017 from

Centre for Policy on Aging (2012). Managing and administering medication in care homes for older people. Retrieved March 14, 2017 from

National Care Forum (2013). Safety of medicines in the care home: Final project report- Phase Two. Retrieved March 14, 2017 from

National Care Forum (2011). Medication safety in care homes: Project summary. Coventry: NCF.

National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (2014). Managing medicines in care homes. Retrieved March 14, 2017 from

Office for National Statistics (2014). Changes in the older resident care home population between 2001 and 2011. Retrieved March 13, 2017 from

Spilsbury K. et al. (2017). Guidance on administration of medicines by care assistants in nursing homes. Nursing Times 113 (2): 26-28. Retrieved March 13, 2017 from

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