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Controlled drugs as stock in care homes

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  • Organisations we regulate

Care homes usually hold medicines (including controlled drugs), dispensed and labelled for individuals.

Care homes with nursing can hold stocks of controlled drugs in Schedules 3 to 5 (inclusive) as stock. This is often the case if several people are receiving end of life care. You will need a controlled drugs licence from the Home Office for controlled drugs in Schedule 2.

Residential homes must not hold stocks of controlled drugs. They can only hold controlled drugs prescribed and dispensed for an individual person.

We cannot provide advice on the specifics of Home Office legislation. You should address specific concerns to the Home Office Duty Compliance Officer. (Telephone: 020 7035 8972).

During the coronavirus pandemic, there have been calls for care homes to be able to keep anticipatory medicines for end of life care. These would be intended for use when a normal supply might not be possible. For example, this could be out of hours or at the weekend. The decision to place medicines in care homes as anticipatory stock needs to be balanced with the impact of increased demand on the medicines supply chain.

NHS England advise that care homes should not routinely hold anticipatory medicines stock. And supplies should be centralised as much as possible. Some Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) have already established local hubs to ensure safe, legal and rapid access to anticipatory medicines. These hubs could be a community pharmacy, GP practice, hospital or other settings.

The CCG medicines optimisation teams are central to this action. CCGs should work with providers and healthcare partners to ensure rapid access to end of life medicines for people in care homes.

NHS England publishes a regular bulletin. It provides updates for teams across general practice, dentistry, community pharmacy and optometry.

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Find out more in COVID-19: Primary Care Bulletin - 9 April 2020.

Last updated:
28 April 2020