Do we use this enough?
At the moment I've no patients who are receiving medication covertly. I have lots of patients who have a mental disorder, within the meaning of the ammended Mental Health Act 1983. I have lots of patients who have an impairment of, or a disturbance in the functioning of, the mind or brain, as set out within section 2(1) of the Mental Capacity Act 2005. In fact all of my patient can fit in to one of the categories of mental disorder/impairment/disturbance of mind/brain.
It was put to me that since all my patients are mentally unwell, if they stop taking medication, can't they be made to take medication? Well no, no they all can't. But it got me thinking that yes, some of the could, but I don't force this. This led to me being chided for not treating vulnerable patients who couldn't make valid choices on treatment.
If you're in a care home or hospital, say, and you have dementia, you probably are fine to make valid decisions on medication you're offered/continue to take. But you might struggle to make valid decisions on medication as dementia progresses or when you have a UTI, chest infection, constipation, pain, dehydration or other cause for acute confusion that makes your thinking worse.
What happens then?
Usually medication's offered to you, even though you're confused and can't give/withhold valid consent on the use of medication. If you accept it, you keep receiving it. If you refuse it, you're allowed to and it's documented as declined and you don't get medication. So whether you receive medication or not isn't based on clinical decision making, it's based on how stroppy you seem and how much nurses/care assistants respond to this. In acute wards it's also about pressures on qualified nurses' time which is now so pressured that even if staff wanted to sit down and explain/support a confused patient with medication, they don't have the 20 to 30 minutes that might take.
The pharmacist and manager givig me grief over this were reckoning that this arbitary giving/not giving medication on how compliant/stroppy a patient is seen to be isn't good. It should be on clinical evidence. If someone is confused and can't give (or withhold) valid consent, they're managed under the Mental Capacity Act 2005 framework and medication can be given when this is in their best interests. Rather than not giving it, the least restrictive means should be used. Instead of section 3 and depot antipsychotic given under Part IV of the MHA 1983, wouldn't orodispersible olanzapine in their tea be a much better option?
I rarely advocate for covert medication to be used. Maybe I'm wrong.