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Legal Considerations in Administering Medication to Students

Ensuring the well-being of students extends far beyond academic achievements. A critical component of this responsibility involves the safe and effective administration of medications to students who require them during school hours. This seemingly straightforward task is layered with legal considerations that educators, administrators and healthcare professionals must carefully navigate.

There are several reasons why students might need to be given medication in school. This might be because of a chronic health condition, acute health need, mental health management, or special needs support.

Some specific examples include:

  • Asthma – students with asthma might need inhalers or other medications to manage their symptoms and prevent asthma attacks during the school day.
  • Diabetes – students with diabetes may require insulin injections or other medication to manage their blood sugar levels.
  • Epilepsy – anti-seizure medications might be necessary for students prone to seizures.
  • Allergic reactions – students with severe allergies may need access to emergency medications like epinephrine (EpiPen) to treat anaphylactic reactions.
  • Pain management – some students might require medication for pain relief due to injuries, surgeries or chronic pain conditions.
  • Mental health management – ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). Students with ADHD often take medications to help manage their symptoms.
  • Anxiety and depression – students dealing with anxiety or depression might be prescribed medications that need to be taken during school hours to maintain stability and effectiveness.
  • Autism spectrum disorders – some students on the autism spectrum might require medications to manage symptoms such as irritability, anxiety or hyperactivity.

Legal Framework

In the UK, the legal requirements for administering medication in schools are primarily set out in various pieces of legislation and guidance.

Key documents and laws include:

  • The Children and Families Act 2014 – this Act includes provisions for supporting children with medical conditions in schools. Under this Act, schools are required to make arrangements to support pupils with medical conditions and have regard to statutory guidance issued by the Department for Education.
  • The Education Act 2002 – section 175 of this Act places a duty on local authorities and governing bodies of maintained schools to make arrangements for ensuring that their functions are carried out with a view to safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children.
  • The Medicines Act 1968 – this Act regulates the administration of medications. It is supplemented by guidance from the Department of Health and Social Care, which outlines who can administer medicines and under what circumstances.
  • The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 – this Act imposes a duty on employers, including schools, to ensure the health and safety of their employees and others, which includes pupils. Schools must ensure that staff who administer medication are adequately trained and that procedures are in place to manage and administer medication safely.
  • Statutory Guidance – Supporting Pupils at School with Medical Conditions (2015) – issued by the Department for Education, this guidance provides comprehensive instructions on how schools should manage the administration of medication and support pupils with medical conditions. Schools must have a policy in place for supporting pupils with medical conditions, which should include procedures for managing medication.

Roles and Responsibilities

The roles and responsibilities of schools in administering medication are critical to ensuring the health and safety of students who require medication during school hours. These responsibilities typically involve collaboration between school staff, parents, healthcare providers and the students themselves.

The key roles and responsibilities include:

  • Policy development and implementation – establish clear policies. Schools must develop clear policies regarding the administration of medication, including procedures for obtaining consent from parents or guardians, and guidelines for safe storage, handling and administration of medications.
  • Compliance with laws and regulations – ensure that all policies comply with the law including regulations from health departments and education authorities.
  • Parental and healthcare provider collaboration – schools must obtain written consent from parents or guardians for any medication to be administered during school hours.
  • Training and designation of staff – ensure that designated school personnel are adequately trained in medication administration, including recognising side effects and knowing how to respond to emergencies. Identify specific staff members who are responsible for administering medication and ensure they understand their roles and responsibilities. Some schools may have their own school nurse.
  • Safe storage and handling – medications should be stored in a secure, locked location to prevent unauthorised access. Ensure that medications are handled according to instructions, maintaining hygiene and preventing contamination.
  • Administration of medication – administer medication strictly according to the healthcare provider’s instructions, including the correct dosage and timing. Keep accurate records of each dose administered, including the time, dosage and the person who administered it.
  • Monitoring and managing side effects – monitor students for any adverse reactions or side effects following the administration of medication. Have clear procedures in place for responding to medical emergencies, for example in cases of anaphylaxis, including contacting emergency services and notifying parents or carers.
  • Communication – ensure that relevant school personnel are informed about students’ medication needs while maintaining confidentiality. Maintain open lines of communication with parents and healthcare providers in order to keep them updated on the student’s condition and any issues related to medication administration.
  • Confidentiality and privacy – protect the privacy of students’ health information while ensuring that the correct information is shared in order to safeguard the student.
  • Regular reviews – periodically review and update medication administration policies and procedures to ensure they remain current and effective. Implement improvements based on feedback from staff, parents and healthcare providers, and adapt to any changes in laws or best practices.
  • Education and awareness – provide education and awareness programmes for students, parents and staff about the importance of proper medication administration and the school’s policies.

Parental Consent

Parental consent refers to the legal requirement that a parent or guardian must give their permission before certain activities involving their child can take place. This concept is critical in many areas, including medical treatments, educational decisions, and participation in research studies, among others. Obtaining parental consent before administering medication to students in schools is crucial for several reasons:

  • Legal compliance – schools must adhere to legal guidelines set out by the Department for Education and other regulatory bodies. Administering medication without parental consent can result in legal ramifications for the school and staff.
  • Child safety – parents are typically the most knowledgeable about their child’s medical history, including allergies, existing conditions and current medications. Obtaining their consent ensures that the school has accurate and comprehensive information, which is essential to prevent adverse reactions and ensure the child’s safety.
  • Parental rights – parents have the right to make informed decisions about their child’s healthcare. Respecting this right creates trust between parents and the school, promoting a cooperative relationship that benefits the child’s overall well-being.
  • Accuracy and documentation – proper documentation of parental consent helps ensure that the correct medication is given in the correct dosage and at the correct times. This accuracy is crucial to avoid errors that could negatively impact the child’s health.
  • Emergency situations – in cases of emergency, having prior consent and knowledge about a child’s medical needs allows school staff to act swiftly and appropriately, potentially preventing a medical crisis from escalating.
  • Accountability – parental consent creates a record that protects both the child and the school staff. If there are any disputes or issues regarding the administration of medication, having documented consent provides a clear trail of accountability.

The UK Department for Education provides comprehensive guidelines for the administration of medication in schools, emphasising the need for parental consent. Key aspects include:

  • Written consent – schools should request written consent from parents for both prescription and non-prescription medications.
  • Medication plan – a detailed care plan should be developed in collaboration with parents, healthcare providers and school staff, outlining the medication’s administration.
  • Training – staff administering medication should receive appropriate training to ensure they are competent and confident in performing their duties.

Medication Storage and Record-Keeping

When administering medication in schools, it is crucial to follow specific guidelines for medication storage and record-keeping in order to ensure the safety and well-being of students. Some things to consider include:

  • Secure storage – store medications in a locked cabinet or a dedicated medication room that is only accessible to authorised personnel.
  • Controlled medications – these should be stored separately in a double-locked cabinet.
  • Medications that require refrigeration should be kept in a dedicated, lockable refrigerator separate from food items.
  • Temperature – ensure the storage area maintains a temperature within the medication’s recommended range.
  • Light and humidity – store medication away from direct sunlight and in a low-humidity environment in order to prevent degradation.
  • Labelling and organisation – keep medications in their original, labelled containers with the student’s name, prescription details and expiration date.
  • Separation – store each student’s medication separately in order to prevent mix-ups. Use individual compartments.
  • Record-keeping – document each dose administered, the time of administration, the person administering, and any observations or side effects.
  • Electronic records – utilise electronic health record systems if available, for efficient and error-free documentation.
  • Parental consent – obtain written consent from parents or guardians for all medications administered at school.
  • Prescription medications – ensure all prescription medication has the medication name, dosage, administration time and any specific instructions.
  • Regular audits – conduct regular audits of medication records and inventory to ensure compliance and accuracy.
  • Error reporting – implement a system for reporting and addressing medication administration errors or discrepancies.
  • Emergency procedures – document any adverse reactions or medication errors immediately, including steps taken and outcomes.
  • Contact information – keep updated emergency contact information for each student readily available.
  • Disposal of medications – remove and properly dispose of expired or discontinued medications according to school policy and local regulations. Record the disposal of medications, including the type of medication, amount disposed of, and the method of disposal.
  • Staff training – ensure that only trained and authorised staff members administer medications. Provide regular training sessions on medication administration protocols, emergency procedures and record-keeping.
  • Policy development – develop clear, written policies on medication administration, storage and record-keeping. Make these policies easily accessible to all relevant staff members and ensure they are reviewed and updated regularly.

It is important to develop comprehensive policies regarding the administration of medication within schools. Administration policies should be updated and reviewed regularly to reflect changes in legislation and best practices. Some other things to consider include:


Best Practices

  • Make policies and procedures readily accessible to all staff members involved in medication administration.
  • Provide regular training sessions for all staff members who may be involved in medication administration. This training should cover legal requirements, district policies and emergency procedures.
  • Ensure that staff members who administer medication are certified and trained in first aid and CPR.
  • Require written consent from parents or guardians before administering any medication. Forms should include detailed instructions and authorisation.
  • For prescription medications, obtain written instructions and confirmation from the prescribing healthcare provider.
  • Store all medications in a secure, locked area.
  • Ensure all medications are clearly labelled with the student’s name, dosage and administration instructions.
  • Follow specific guidelines for the storage and documentation of controlled substances.
  • Maintain detailed records of all medications administered, including the date, time, dosage, and the name of the person administering the medication.
  • Implement a double-check system where two trained staff members verify the medication and dosage before administration.
  • Have clear protocols in place for responding to adverse reactions or medication errors, including contacting emergency services and notifying parents.
  • Keep student health and medication records confidential, sharing information only with authorised staff members.
  • Conduct regular internal audits of medication administration practices and records to ensure compliance with policies and regulations.
  • Review any incidents involving medication errors or adverse reactions to identify and address potential issues.
  • Ideally have a school nurse oversee the medication administration programme and provide guidance to staff members.
  • Maintain open communication with students’ healthcare providers in order to ensure accurate and up-to-date medical information and instructions.
  • Develop a system for reporting and documenting any medication-related incidents or errors, including follow-up actions taken.
  • Keep detailed logs of all training sessions, policy updates and audits conducted to demonstrate ongoing compliance efforts.
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About the author

Claire Vain

Claire Vain

Claire graduated with a degree in Social Work in 2010. She is currently enjoying her career moving in a different direction, working as a professional writer and editor. Outside of work Claire loves to travel, spend time with her family and two dogs and she practices yoga at every opportunity!

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