Dementia Pathways. For Health & Social Care Professionals

Psychotropic Medications in Acute Hospitals

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In 2013, the Irish National Audit of Dementia found that 29% of a sample of people with known dementia (identified through national hospital discharge data) were receiving antipsychotic medication prior to acute hospitalisation (compared to 9.4% in England and Wales). Of these, 41% were discharged on higher doses of an antipsychotic, while 12% of patients not prescribed an antipsychotic before admission were discharged with a new regular prescription. Concerningly, the indication for the new antipsychotic medication was only documented in 78% of cases. Assessments for treatable underlying causes of non-cognitive symptoms were poorly performed – ruling out delirium (45%), or pain (76%), assessing mood (26%), and seeking information from family about distress-provoking factors (3%) or calming actions (2%).

A National Clinical Guideline was launched in December 2019 to guide the appropriate use of psychotropic medication for non-cognitive symptoms in a person with dementia (in any setting). This is complemented by a clinical algorithm for clinical staff and a “patient and family Information leaflet ” for a person living with dementia or caring for a person with dementia, or the general public.

Appropriate Prescribing of Psychotropic Medication
for Non-Cognitive Symptoms in people with Dementia
National Clinical Guideline No. 21 (2019)

Algorithm to guide Appropriate Prescribing of Psychotropic Medication for Non-Cognitive Symptoms in a Person with Dementia (2019)

Patient and Family Information Leaflet

A sister guidance document on non-pharmacological interventions is also available below. 

Non-Cognitive Symptoms of Dementia (NCSD)

Guidance on Non-pharmacological Interventions for Healthcare and Social Care Practitioners (2019)

See below for a specific psychotropic self-audit tool for use in acute hospitals, along with a user manual. 

INAD-2 Psychotropic Medication Section Case Note Audit

INAD 2 Guidance Document