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  • Keeping patients with Parkinson’s safe in hospital: 4 key actions for staff

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    Parkinson’s is the fastest growing neurological condition in the world and in the UK around 145,000 people are living with the condition. When admitted to hospital, it is vital that patients with Parkinson’s get the right care and do not experience medication delays or omissions.

    In this blog, Dr Rowan Wathes, Associate Director of the UK Parkinson's Excellence Network at Parkinson's UK, recommends four key actions that healthcare workers can take to improve safety for people with Parkinson’s while they are in hospital. 


    “Often you go into hospital with something unrelated to your Parkinson’s but then your Parkinson’s gets worse due to it not being managed properly.” Carole (person living with Parkinson’s)

    Sadly, research shows that 63% of people living with Parkinson’s don’t always receive their medication on time when staying in hospital. This can seriously impact their recovery. They may not be able to move, get out of bed, swallow, walk or talk. Some people may never recover and may permanently lose their ability to walk, talk or worse. In worst case scenarios, the withdrawal of Parkinson’s medication can lead to life-threatening neuroleptic malignant syndrome.

    Healthcare workers play a vital role in improving patient safety and reducing long-lasting, avoidable harm in this area, but they need the right support to do so. Below are my four key actions for staff working in a hospital.

    1.   Train up

    Only 44% of trusts and health boards offer ward staff mandatory training on Parkinson’s.

    Complete the training on Parkinson’s to understand how you can support your patients with the condition. The UK Parkinson’s Excellence Network learning has a number of training resources:

     2.   Alert specialists on admission

    57% of trusts and health boards do not have a system that alerts Parkinson’s or movement disorder specialist professionals when a person with Parkinson’s is admitted to one of their wards.

    Have a system for alerting your hospital’s specialist Parkinson’s nurse or professional when someone with Parkinson’s is admitted. This will help to ensure that the individual gets the right medication and support, and that ward staff fully understand how to care for their patient.

     3.   Make sure you have a self-administration policy

    Many trusts and health boards have out-of-date self-administration policies so people with Parkinson’s with the capacity and ability to take their own medication are unable to do so, with a further 26% of trusts having no policy at all.

    Support people with Parkinson’s to self-administer their own medication if they are able to do so. Find out if your Trust has a self-administration policy. Any policy must be supported by the correct hospital facilities, staff training, resources for patients and regular audits.

     4.   Report medication delays

    58% of hospitals do not record patient safety incidents for people with Parkinson’s and therefore have no insight into the severity of issues within the trust or health board.

    Ensure every missed or delayed dose of a time-sensitive Parkisnon’s medication is recorded as a patient safety incident. Delayed doses are those that are not given within 30 minutes of the prescribed time.

    I hope you find these tips useful. Working together, we can make things better for people affected by Parkinson's.


    Rowan Wathes

    Further blogs in the Parkinson's series

    Share your insights with Patient Safety Learning

     Do you work with inpatients living with Parkinson’s? Have you made changes to improve safety in this area? Have you completed the training with Parkinson’s UK?

     We’d love to hear your thoughts on the challenges, what you’ve learnt and what’s working well.

     Please share your insights by commenting below, or email us at content@pslhub.org

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