A close up of shelves full of bottles of medicines on a shelf with purple and green labels

Medicines storage and disposal

Medicines should be stored in a way that means they are safe and will be effective when administered.

Medicines are usually stored in a specific area in the care home. This area must be kept:

  • Clean and tidy
  • Dry and at constant temperature (not above 25°C)
  • Locked and keys kept with authorised members of staff only

A secure medicines area protects the safety of the staff and residents. Many care homes store medicines in a lockable drug trolley which is used for drug rounds. These may be designed to hold MMD’s.

Storing controlled drugs

As mentioned in week 1, controlled drugs are medicines that are very potent and can be misused. Scheduled 2 and 3 controlled drugs require extra storage. They should be stored in a locked metal cupboard separate from other medicines. The cupboard should be fixed to the wall or floor and should be locked at all times.

Any MMD that contains a controlled drug must also be stored in controlled drugs cupboard and not the drug trolley or general medicines areas.

Medicines Storage 1

Storing external preparations

Medicines for external use should be kept separate from medicines for internal use (medicines that should be taken by mouth). Examples of medicines for external use include:

  • Creams/ointments
  • Bath oils
  • Medicated shampoos

Medicines Storage 2

Storing medicines in the fridge

Some medicines, creams, suppositories, eye drops and injections need to be stored in a fridge. Medicines should not be stored in a fridge that also contains food. The fridge temperature should be between 2-8°C and checked daily. The medicines should not be packed too tightly to allow the air to circulate freely.

Medicines Storage 3

Disposal of medicines

There will be occasions when medicines will need to be returned to the pharmacy for disposal. Before disposing of a medicine, staff should check:

  • Is it still needed?
  • Is it in date?
  • What is the shelf-life once opened?

Care homes should keep records of all medicines (including controlled drugs) that have been disposed of, or are awaiting disposal. Medicines waiting for disposal should be kept in a locked cupboard until they are collected or taken to the pharmacy.

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This article is from the free online course:

Medicine Administration for Carers

UEA (University of East Anglia)