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Nurses’ views about unlicensed and off-license medicines in forensic mental health

Camilla M. Haw (Professor in Mental Health Care and Consultant Psychiatrist, based at St Andrew's Academic Department, St Andrew's Healthcare, and School of Health, University of Northampton, Northampton, UK)
Jean H. Stubbs (Head of Nursing Research and Professor of Psychiatric Nursing, based at St Andrew's Academic Department, St Andrew's Healthcare, and School of Health, University of Northampton, Northampton, UK)
Geoffrey L. Dickens (Research Associate, based at St Andrew's Academic Department Northampton, UK)

The Journal of Forensic Practice

ISSN: 2050-8794

Article publication date: 5 August 2014

Abstract

Purpose

Use of off-license medicines in forensic mental health settings is common and unlicensed drugs are sometimes prescribed. Despite their responsibility for administering medicines little is known about how mental health nurses view these practices. The paper aims to discuss these issues.

Design/methodology/approach

In total, 50 mental health nurses working in low and medium secure adolescent and adult mental health wards were presented with a clinical vignette about administration of unlicensed and off-license medicines. Semi-structured interviews about their likely clinical response to, and feelings about, this practice were conducted. Interview data were subject to a thematic analysis.

Findings

Analysis revealed six themes: status of unlicensed/off-label medicines; legality of administering unlicensed medicines; professional standards around administering unlicensed medicines; finding out more about unlicensed medicines; trusting medical colleagues; and decision making in uncertain cases.

Practical implications

Forensic mental health nurses take a pragmatic approach to the practice of administering unlicensed medicines and most are aware of their professional responsibilities.

Originality/value

This study provides the first evidence to inform the development of training for forensic mental health nurses about an issue that is common in forensic mental health practice.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The study was funded by St Andrew's, Billing Road, Northampton, NN1 5DG, UK.

Citation

M. Haw, C., H. Stubbs, J. and L. Dickens, G. (2014), "Nurses’ views about unlicensed and off-license medicines in forensic mental health", The Journal of Forensic Practice, Vol. 16 No. 3, pp. 194-202. https://doi.org/10.1108/JFP-10-2013-0045

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2014, Emerald Group Publishing Limited