Carers and Pharmacists (CAP): Experience and understanding of legal and ethical frameworks

Carers and Pharmacists (CAP): Experience and understanding of legal and ethical frameworks

Professor Felicity Smith, University College London

Collection of medicines from a pharmacy by carers presents opportunities for pharmacists and carers to discuss problems and concerns to ensure optimal outcomes for patients. However, from the pharmacist’s, patient’s and carer’s perspective, the provision of advice by a pharmacist in the context of the need for confidentiality and liaison with other providers, is unclear. Medicine-related activities can add to the stress of caring for an older person whether or not that older person has memory problems.  Despite the acknowledgements that the management of medicines is a vital part of the caring role and the recognition that the use of medicines by older people including those with memory problems can be problematic, there are few studies which address these issues.

From the point of view of carers and health/social care professionals we aim to identify and review the legal and ethical frameworks that underpin the practice of pharmacy when supporting older people (some of whom will have memory problems) and their carers in decisions regarding, and the use of, medicines.  We also want to establish how these frameworks are interpreted and applied in practice and the implications of this for carers.

This study aims to improve understanding of the current and potential role of pharmacy services in supporting carers of older people


1. to review and analyse current legal and ethical guidelines that underpin the practice of pharmacists when supporting older people (some of whom will lack mental capacity) with carers.

2. to determine perspectives of pharmacists (all sectors) and health/social care professionals (e.g.  GPs, community nurses, support workers) on interpretation of these frameworks in terms of supporting carers.

3. to obtain carers’ understanding and experience of the role of pharmacy and other services in assisting them in medication-related activities.

4. to suggest ways in which carers and pharmacists may have a clearer understanding of what information and support can be provided so that they are working together for the benefit of the patient.

5. to inform policy and guidelines on the role of pharmacists in supporting carers, including identifying gaps in both.

Methods: A review of the literature will be undertaken to meet objective 1.  Data for objectives 2 and 3 will be obtained from approximately 60 group and/ or individual interviews with carers, pharmacists and other health/social care professionals.  Carers will be recruited through carers’ support groups and pharmacies. A sample of pharmacists (e.g. from the hospital and community) and other health/social care professionals involved with carers will be identified. We will use methods to analyse the data that ensure that the views and experiences of all interviewees are taken into account.

How the results of the research will be used: The study will identify relevant guidelines regarding support for carers and highlight potential dilemmas in their interpretation and operation. The study will result in recommendations for health care professional to address the needs of carers and will provide clarity for pharmacists, carers and the people they care for.