Legislation and Standards
Legislation and Standards
Handling medicines is only part of the nurse’s role, but it is a very important part. Handled properly, medicines can make a great contribution to improving the health of your patients. Handled badly, they can do a lot of harm. It is therefore not surprising that there is a lot of legislation relating to medicines, and that the Nursing and Midwifery Council has laid down important standards for the way in which nurses conduct the management of medicines. The legislation is complex, but it has to be learned. Nurses do not need to become lawyers, but they do need a working knowledge of the law relating to medicines so that they can keep within it. This chapter will set out some of the key legislation that will affect your practice as a student or qualified nurse. It will also look at the rights that patients have and give you the opportunity to reflect on the practice you see around you. Most of us will be patients ourselves at some time and we will have a good idea of the way in which we would want to be treated by nurses. It is too easy for people who care for others to fall into the trap of doing what they think is best for the patient, or for their own good, and ignoring the patient’s legitimate wishes. After reading this chapter, you should know how this can be avoided. You cannot register as a nurse without demonstrating knowledge of medicines management. Understanding the laws and regulations that are relevant is the first step in building that knowledge. The law on medicines is primarily designed to keep patients safe, so a nurse who does not know it is unlikely to be able to practise safely. As was remarked in the foreword, the main aim of this book is to help you do that. The concepts of accountability and responsibility are fundamental to any practice related to the administration of medicines. They are inter-related but distinct. Accountability involves being called to explain (account for) your actions or omissions by someone to whom you owe a duty. This might be a legal duty, a professional duty, a contractual duty, or a civil duty arising from a duty of care. Nurses are therefore accountable to a range of others.
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