How much time is spent each month on the ordering and receiving
of medicines in Care Homes?

Medicine inventory management demands a great deal of time from carers working in care home environments.

Carers are required to remove themselves from regular tasks for entire days at a time whilst they manually count medicines in stock, quantities to be ordered and then count medicines in upon receiving them at the care home.

‘Care home providers should ensure that care home staff (registered nurses and social care practitioners working in care homes) have protected time to order medicines and check medicines delivered to the home’ (NICE, 2014). 

Each time one of these processes must occur, the carer has less time to spend with their residents on the delivery of quality, personalised care.

Complying with Regulation

Managing the care home’s medicine inventory is a crucial aspect of maintaining safety and quality.

Ensuring that documented quantities of each medicine match actual quantities that are in stock is essential to demonstrating compliance with the Care Quality Commission (CQC) Fundamental Standards. Disposal and/or return of unwanted medicines by suitably trained staff is another important aspect of complying with Safety standards.

These aspects fall under Regulation 12: Safe care and treatment of the Health and Social Care Act 2008 (Regulated Activities) Regulations 2014: Regulation 12 which states ‘Medicines must be supplied in sufficient quantities, managed safely and administered appropriately to make sure people are safe.’

Human Error & Potential Risk in Inventory Records

Inventory management becomes increasingly complex the larger the care home, or where there are multiple units in one organisation.

In care homes with large numbers of residents being cared for, the likelihood increases for medicines being ordered via multiple GP practices and in some instances, dispensed by more than one pharmacy.

Managing medicine inventories can soon become a large and extremely fragmented task.

Counting in Medicine Quantities

Counting of medicine quantities is performed rigorously and with the utmost care by two carers, though it is still extremely susceptible to risk due to the potential for human error. 

This risk exists in all processes that are performed manually, particularly where more than one carer is involved in entering data to a single inventory record.

Where even one quantity of a medicine is miscounted, this error can cause a trickle effect throughout the reordering and receiving process, causing inaccurate quantities to be recorded multiple times and multiple inaccuracies to exist within the care homes records.

This presents a significant risk of the care home being marked as Unsafe if a CQC Inspection were to occur and numerous errors were identified in the homes records.

Inventory Management & the CQC

The CQC reviews not only the safe administration of medicines, but the entire medication management process.

This includes:

  • supply and ordering
  • storage
  • disposal
  • recording

Key Issues in Manual Inventory Management

Carers are removed from the provision of care for lengthy time periods to complete the reordering and counting in of received medicines.

There is the potential for human error to occur in manual counts of large medicine quantities, causing miscounts to be documented in care records.

Medicines do expire and must then be destroyed causing considerable wastage of resources. Wastage increases when medicines are over ordered. This is likely to occur if carers reorder all medicines listed on their sheet of prescriptions rather than performing a thorough stock take.

On the other hand, if under ordering occurs medicines cannot be administered as they should be. This poses a risk to the health and safety of the care homes residents, particularly where they rely on a certain medicine for pain management or management of a serious health issue.

Keeping an audit trail can become difficult when records are handwritten by numerous staff, and legibility issues often arise.

All of which contribute to the CQC compliance ratings of a care home and so should be considered in your systems and processes.