Doctors, pharmacists and seniors advocates say urgent change is needed to the way medications are given to people in aged care homes, with a federal government advisory panel finding psychotropic medication is "clearly justified" in only about 10 per cent of cases when prescribed in residential aged care.
The royal commission into aged care sounded alarm bells about the misuse of medication in nursing homes in its first report, singling out chemical restraints as an area for immediate action.
It found "widespread over prescribing, often without clear consent, of drugs which sedate residents". One witness to the royal commission, "Elizabeth," said chemical restraints are used in nursing homes "because there are not enough staff, and it is confronting and unsavoury to physically restrain people, people are often sedated so they're not 'annoying' you".
Australian Medical Assocation president Dr Tony Bartone said part of reducing the inappropriate use of chemical restraints was more staff and more staff training to deal with dementia.
"Currently, that training is inadequate".
The Pharmaceutical Society of Australia said there needed to be regular pharmacy services in aged care facilities, as well as more collaboration with GPs.
In its report, released on Thursday, the royal commission quoted a 2019 Australian Department of Health clinical advisory panel, which estimated psychotropic medication is only "clearly justified" in about 10 per cent of cases in residential aged care, where there might be a mental health issue or rare, acute manifestations of dementia.
Earlier this year, the federal government introduced new regulations around physical and chemical restraints. But some groups, including the Older Persons Advocacy Network, say they are inadequate and stronger rules must be introduced to ensure there is informed consent, a transparent register to record what drugs have been given, as well as mandatory dementia training for aged care workers.
"You shouldn't have to check your rights at the door," OPAN chief executive Craig Gear said.
Greens spokesperson on ageing Rachel Siewert is similarly pushing the government to toughen up its response, including the requirement of a behaviour support plan before a chemical restraint is used.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison pointed to an upcoming government funding agreement with pharmacists currently being negotiated for next year as a way to decrease the use of chemical restraints.
"There's so much more to do," he told 3AW on Friday.
- SMH/The Age