Enhancing medication safety for nursing homes

We share Ms Lim Lih Mei's views on the importance of medication safety ("Stringent checks needed on medication and dosage"; Tuesday) and assure her that efforts are being made to enhance medication safety in nursing homes.

As part of the Ministry of Health's (MOH) ongoing efforts to ensure that our seniors receive consistent and better quality of care, the Enhanced Nursing Home Standards (ENHS) were introduced as licensing terms and conditions in April this year, with a one-year grace period before enforcement begins next year in April.

Recognising the need for good pharmaceutical care in our nursing homes, we have strengthened the requirements for medication management within the ENHS.

In addition to the current requirement that only registered medical practitioners may prescribe residents' medication, the ENHS also state that medication reconciliation can be done only by such a practitioner, a registered pharmacist or an advanced practice nurse.

ENHS also require nursing homes to engage a registered pharmacist to visit at least once every six months to review the residents' medication and conduct audit checks on their medication management.

The study by the National Healthcare Group pharmacists was done in 2011 for only three nursing homes. In the four years since then, many more of our community care providers have taken positive steps to improve the quality of care, including in the area of pharmaceutical care, for their elderly residents and clients.

For example, the Agency for Integrated Care (AIC) has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Pharmaceutical Society of Singapore to provide pharmacist services for nursing homes to enhance their medication safety on a regular basis.

To date, 55 nursing homes have engaged the services of registered pharmacists for medication review.

AIC will continue to engage the rest of the sector to participate in this programme.

Eighteen nursing homes have also adopted pre-packed ready-to-administer sachet medications for patients, for greater reliability. Community care staff also attend annual training on prescription terminology, drug-related side effects and the use of medication for illnesses common among the elderly.

Ensuring that our seniors receive quality care and patient safety are priorities of MOH and AIC, and we continue to work closely with community care providers to improve standards of care.

Lim Bee Khim (Ms)

Director, Corporate Communications

Ministry of Health

Andy Seet

Director, Corporate and Marketing Communications

Agency for Integrated Care

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 09, 2015, with the headline 'Enhancing medication safety for nursing homes'. Print Edition | Subscribe