Controlled substances in hospices after patient death: a cross-sectional survey of Ontario hospices
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Background Practices related to the handling of controlled substances (CS) in Ontario hospices have not been previously published and therefore, are unknown. Objective The objective of this study was to determine current practices, and policies, standard operating procedures (SOPs) and guidelines related to handling and disposal of CS at hospices across Ontario. Setting This study was a cross-sectional survey of hospices in Ontario. Method A list of all hospices in Ontario, 39 in total, was obtained from Hospice and Palliative Care Ontario. The Director at each hospice was contacted to request contact information on the person most likely to be knowledgeable about handling procedures related to CS. All participants who provided consent were asked to complete a telephone survey composed of 32 questions: 20 multiple-choice and 12 open-ended. Of the 20 multiple-choice, eight requested demographics of the hospice, nine were related to disposal and documentation practices. Main outcome measure Demographic information, disposal practices and patterns of care were summarized and presented as frequencies or means. Responses to open-ended questions were analyzed qualitatively to identify themes related to the handling and disposal of controlled substances in hospices. Results Twelve hospices (12/39; 31%) participated in the survey, 25 did not, and two were ineligible. Two (2/12, 17%) hospices served both pediatric and adult patients while 10 (83%) served adults only; 100% indicated that 76-100% of their patients were on CS at time of death. Eight (67%) had a policy for controlled substances handling, two had policy and SOPs and two had no policies, guidelines or SOPs. Qualitative analysis indicated variability in procedures for obtaining CS (patient's own supply, other patient's supply, hospice associated pharmacy), storage and dispensation of CS (location, secure lock, dispensing by staff or family), documentation (dispensing records, double signature, tracking returns and disposal), and disposal of CS (return to pharmacy, disposal at hospice, return to families). Conclusion Although most of the hospices have a policy, guideline or SOP on the handling of CS, there is considerable variation in practice of dispensing CS to patients, documentation and disposal of CS, which may provide an avenue for inappropriate use, abuse or diversion of CS.
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