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Safe disposal is another very important aspect of administering medication. It is important to remember that all medication has a shelf life. Whenever you administer medication, staff must always check that it's still in date. Medication should never be transferred between service users and if one service user has run out of their prescribed medication, do not give somebody else's, even if it's the same medication and same dose. All used and out of date medication must be disposed of in line with organisational in-house policy. All medication needs to be returned to the pharmacy that filed the prescription.

The Waste and Environmental Protection Act 1990 makes it illegal to dispose of medication into the general sewage system, which means you are not allowed to flush it down the toilet or put it down the sink. In the case of a death of a service user, all medication must be kept for seven days, this is in case of the need for a post-mortem. It may be that there were suspicious circumstances surrounding the death, so audits would need to be carried out and the medication that was left would be checked against the medication that should have been administered.

This is where record keeping is paramount. Always record medication given, medication refused, make sure it's documented and signed. Often, your workplace will have an agreement with the pharmacist that they will collect any unused or out of date medication. Any controlled drugs which need to be sent back will have to be recorded. These will be signed as “left your workplace” and then will have to be signed in at the pharmacy. This is to ensure the continuity of the paper trail.

To summarise, we cannot stress highly enough the importance of disposing of the medication correctly. Any unused or out of date medication needs to be stored appropriately in the locked cupboard until such time as it is disposed of correctly. The potential misuse of unused or out of date medications is massive. There could be legal implications to staff and to the care home if these medications are used inappropriately. Therefore, always make sure that you are up to date with the policies of wherever you are working.