Reduce the risk of drug thefts in nursing homes: Effective measures for increased security

This article is written from a Swedish perspective. Hopefully, it can inspire interested parties from other countries.

Effective strategies for preventing drug thefts in nursing homes. Through a combination of safe medication management, open communication and continuous staff training, nursing homes can create a safer and more secure environment for both residents and staff. It is important to have secure routines for drug handling. With secure routines, shrinkage is detected early and the risk of theft is reduced. In addition, the risk of employees being drawn into drug abuse is reduced.

Preventing Waste and Theft of Narcotic Drugs


Many elderly care homes have had narcotic drug waste at some point. Sometimes it's just sheer negligence, but theft of narcotic drugs also occurs. All drug thefts need to be reported to the police. Sometimes there's more beneath the surface than what appears at the discovery. Those who abuse narcotic drugs often find clever ways to try to hide their abuse.  

When this happens, an incident is reported. In connection with investigating the incident, it's important to understand the background. If the routines are inadequate, are there other ways to work to reduce the risk of the event happening again. The starting point must always be to first look at the organization's routines.

Here, traceability is important. Being able to control all drugs that come to the unit and tracking them in the drug journal until they are used or discarded. Regular control of narcotic drugs to quickly detect any deficiencies.

It's also interesting what disappears, where the drugs are when they disappear. Sometimes it's also possible to find a timeframe when the drugs must have disappeared. With digital signing, waste is often discovered earlier.  

Creating Good Conditions for Controlling Drug Management


Opportunity makes the thief and reducing the amount of available narcotic drugs is also a way to reduce the risk of theft. If there are large amounts available, the temptation may increase while the chances of detection decrease. If there are three hundred tablets in stock, it may be that the on-call nurse's ability to control count worsens.

It's unpleasant and uncomfortable to suspect colleagues of drug theft. Therefore, there are all reasons in the world to investigate thoroughly and quickly. With tightened routines such as daily control counting, it may be possible to pinpoint when drugs have disappeared if the events are repeated.

Fortunately, drug waste does not occur that often. When it happens, it causes a lot of problems in the operation. It's easy to start suspecting colleagues on loose grounds and rumors start to spread. If it's about thefts, these should always be reported to the police. Police investigations and internal investigations usually have difficulty finding a clear perpetrator and often have to be dropped. Some units then make sure to drug test all employees. This requires a clear drug policy and that the business has an action plan for how to deal with employees with drug problems.

In addition to secure drug storage, it's crucial to have an open and trusting dialogue with both the residents and the staff. By creating an environment where everyone feels safe to report suspected incidents or behaviors, you can quickly intervene and prevent potential drug thefts.

Finally, continuous training and follow-up of the staff are crucial to ensure that everyone understands the importance of following safety routines and being vigilant for signs of drug theft.

At the same time, it's important that the routines do not mean that the resident does not get the medicine needed to alleviate pain or anxiety.

Reflection Questions - Drug Waste
Care Staff:
- Do the nurses follow up on dispensed narcotics in a good way?
- Has there been waste in the residence?
- Do the routines feel safe?

Manager, Nurse, Occupational Therapist and Physiotherapist:
- Do you have good routines for control counting?
- Do you have clear routines for handling waste?
- Is the content of the drug store appropriately sized?

Residents and Relatives:
- Does the drug handling at the residence feel safe and secure?


Erland Olsson
Specialist Nurse
Sofrosyne
Better Care Every Day

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