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Parkinson’s Awareness Week 2014

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    Support for Parkinson’s UK “Get It On Time” campaign – Ensuring that patients with Parkinson’s Disease are getting the correct medication on time, every time, when in hospital.

    By Lucy Crawford

This week is Parkinson’s Awareness Week 2014 and the “Get It On Time” campaign has been launched by Parkinson’s UK to ensure that the many thousands of patients who are admitted to hospital with Parkinson’s are given the correct medication at the right time of day. 

For patients where this does not happen, their symptoms often get much worse and they become very ill.  This can lead to extended stays in hospital and a knock on effect for the whole family.

WHAT IS PARKINSON’S DISEASE?

Parkinson’s is a progressive neurological disorder where part of the brain becomes more and more damaged over time.  It is caused by a loss of nerve cells in part of the brain which reduces the amount of dopamine produced.  This means that body movements can no longer be controlled properly and often become slower.   There is no known cause for the loss of nerve cells although it is thought to be a combination of both genetics and environmental factors.

Early symptoms include tiredness, poor hand co-ordination and a shaking in the arm.  It can also lead to other symptoms such as depression, anxiety, stiffness and tension in their muscles and sleep disturbance.

TREATMENTS?

Each patient is different and requires an individual treatment plan that suits them.  Medication is the main treatment and seeks to correct the low levels of dopamine in the brain.   Often patients are prescribed more than one drug and each one must be taken at a specific time of day.  These then stimulate a carefully timed release of chemicals to ensure a patient’s symptoms are controlled.

GET IT ON TIME : THE CAMPAIGN

It is vital that patients are given the correct dose at the correct time of day to control their physical symptoms, and this certainly includes when they are admitted to hospital.  This should be the case whether a patient is admitted to a specialist unit dealing with neurological disorders or a general ward for an unrelated complaint.  All too often, hospital staff fail to appreciate the importance of flexibility and timing and that any disruption in medication can cause a person’s health to decline rapidly.

This often means that a patient requires a higher level of care and an extended stay in hospital as a result of the disruption to their medication.  Due to their mobility difficulties patients can then become at high risk of falls and an increased risk of accidents. This can even delay or postpone originally planned treatment and surgery.

PRACTICAL ADVICE

If a patient with Parkinson’s is admitted to hospital they or their family can:

• Take a written list of the medication and times when these should be given
• Try and bring the original packaging the medication came in
• Ask the nurse or doctor to check that they are holding the correct medication in the hospital pharmacy
• Ask if there is a Parkinson’s Disease Nurse Specialist
• Ask if the hospital operates a system of ‘self administration’ whereby patients can store their medication in a locked cabinet and take it themselves

OUR EXPERIENCE

We fully support this campaign and hope that hospitals will engage with the campaign and highlight the need for particular care when a patient with Parkinson’s Disease is admitted.  I am currently acting for the family of a patient who has sadly now passed away, however had suffered with Parkinson’s Disease for many years.  They experienced a great number of difficulties during his lifetime in ensuring that the staff fully understood the need to administer his medication correctly and his condition was significantly worse when this did not happen.  The family now also campaign for greater understanding including supporting the Parkinson’s UK campaign.

If you have experienced any difficulties with the administering of medication or the timing of this during your admission to hospital, please contact a member of the Clinical Negligence Team who can advise and talk you through both the hospital complaints and litigation process.

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