Scotland’s hospitals fail to give people with Parkinson’s medication on time more than 100,000 times each year

That’s just one of the shocking findings in a new report published today by Parkinson’s UK Scotland. The report - Get It On Time - highlights systematic failures in Scotland’s hospitals that mean that people with Parkinson’s don’t receive their vital medication at their prescribed times.

That’s just one of the shocking findings in a new report published today by Parkinson’s UK Scotland.

The report - Get It On Time - highlights systematic failures in Scotland’s hospitals that mean that people with Parkinson’s don’t receive their vital medication at their prescribed times.

Parkinson’s is complex. People typically take different medicines at specific times each day - and these often do not coincide with ward drug rounds. If people don’t get their Parkinson’s medication at the right time and dose, the results can be catastrophic. Some people become extremely unwell very quickly. It can take weeks to recover symptom control, and some people never recover. 

There are around 12,400 people with Parkinson’s in Scotland - a number which is set to increase by 20% over the next decade. About a quarter of people with Parkinson’s will be admitted to hospital at least once each year.

Every time someone with Parkinson’s is admitted to hospital they run the risk of medication errors making their Parkinson’s symptoms worse.

That risk becomes reality all too often - our report shows that more than half of all Parkinson’s drug doses administered in hospital are late or missed.

The experience of Chris Snowden from Edinburgh is typical of what people with Parkinson’s tell us about their struggles to get their medication on time and the impact it has when their drugs are late. Chris is a former nurse who has lived with Parkinson’s for 19 years since she was diagnosed at the age of 46. In recent years Chris has been admitted to Edinburgh Royal Infirmary twice following serious falls she had as a result of her Parkinson’s symptoms. She is now awaiting admission for a routine operation. Chris said: “I absolutely dread going into hospital again and have made it clear to my doctors that I’ll only go if it’s absolutely essential.

“My fear is a result of the appalling treatment I received both times I was admitted before. I’m utterly dependent on getting my Parkinson’s medication on time but the hospital’s systems couldn’t accommodate this. The inflexibility meant that my symptoms got worse and caused me to get incredibly anxious. It even got to the point that despite having a fractured sternum I wanted to discharge myself from hospital. I called my family to come and get me and naturally this caused them some anxiety too! 

“While some staff were understanding, others really lost patience with my constant reminders about the need for me to get my medication on time. Some staff had never been trained to understand the importance of timely medication. I recall that on one day when I buzzed for the third time to say that my medication was over an hour late and that I was really struggling I got a severe dressing down for being a pest.

“I’m an experienced ward nurse and understand how difficult the job is but Health Boards and staff really need to realise the devastating impact that their failure to do a simple task has on patients and their families. There is still no policy to allow self-medication in the hospital and ahead of my upcoming admission I’m panicking that it will go badly again and I know my husband and daughter are very concerned that it will be just as awful this time.”

Annie Macleod, Director of Parkinson’s UK Scotland, said:

“It is scandalous that hospitals don’t have safety systems to make sure that people with Parkinson’s get their medication on time. People with Parkinson’s and their families tell us repeatedly about how hospital stays have made their symptoms worse, leading to longer hospital stays. In some cases, the consequences are devastating.

“As a former nurse myself, I understand the pressures that ward staff are under, but NHS boards must act when people are harmed in Scotland’s hospitals. That includes making sure that ward staff understand that Parkinson’s medicines timings are crucial, and have systems in place to support administering medication on time.. 

“NHS Scotland is rightly proud of the way that the Scottish Patient Safety Programme has implemented systems to protect patients from preventable harm - and we believe that Parkinson’s medication issues errors must be tackled in the same way.  Parkinson’s UK Scotland calls on Health boards to adopt our report’s recommendations, and support their frontline staff to deliver safe care for people with Parkison’s in hospital. 

“The solutions to this life-threatening problem already exist. They’ve been developed by hardworking and under-resourced Parkinson’s nurse specialists, doctors and pharmacists across Scotland. With around 215 people with Parkinson’s in hospital in Scotland on any given day, our overstretched nurse specialists can’t be on the ward every time someone with Parkinson’s needs their medication, and they shouldn’t need to be. Responsibility for ensuring that ward staff have the resources and systems they need to deliver drugs on time rests with Health boards. I call on those boards to take action and end this malpractice now. Parkinson’s UK Scotland will be glad to offer our expertise and support to help them to do so.”

Read our new report on Get It On Time in Scotland (PDF, 3.1MB).