There is growing concern about the extent teachers are becoming involved in the administration of various medicines to pupils. INTO is aware of cases whereby members are being requested to administer serious forms of medication, which in normal circumstances would require some degree of medical knowledge or experience. Principals and teachers generally do their utmost for children who are ill and are motivated by the desire to protect the safety and welfare of any child in their care.
INTO has requested the employing authorities to ensure that areas of responsibility in relation to the administration of medicine to pupils are clear in all circumstances. This information gives clear guidance to members:
- about instances where it is not appropriate to administer medicines to pupils;
- about the limitations of any "requirements" which may be made of them.
Teachers will always be prepared to help when an accident or an emergency arises e.g., when a child has a serious accident and parents need to be contacted or an ambulance called. INTO recommends that procedures to deal with such emergency situations are clear and are made clear to staff and parents.
Employers have the primary responsibility for the safety and health of pupils. It is essential that detailed guidance is issued by employing authorities to all schools, clarifying the areas of responsibility for medicines, together with the procedure to operate should there be a need for medication to be administered within a school.
Teachers’ Professional Duty
Teachers have a professional duty to safeguard the health and safety of pupils when they are authorised to be on school premises and when they are engaged in authorised school activities elsewhere. This does not imply a duty upon teachers personally to undertake the administration of medicines.
INTO recommends that teachers do not take the responsibility for administration of any medicine, which if administered incorrectly or for any other reason, could have a damaging effect on the child.
Children with Long Term Health Problems
It is recognised that it is desirable for children with long term health problems e.g., asthma, epilepsy and diabetes to be accommodated within a school in order that they can continue with their education. If this is done, it is necessary that proper and clearly understood arrangements for the administration of medicines are made. Parents should be encouraged to provide the maximum support and assistance in helping the school accommodate the pupil. This could include measures such a self-administration (where necessary and only after approval from a GP) or parental suspension.
Teachers and Administration of Medicines in Schools
- No teacher can be requested to administer medicine or drugs to a pupil. Contact INTO Northern Office or your Northern Committee representative where there is any attempt to impose such a requirement.
- Principals should refuse to accept responsibility for the administration of medication to pupils where:
- the timing of its administration is critical to the health of the child; or
- some technical or medical knowledge and/or training is required; or
- intimate contact with the pupil is necessary.
- Any teacher who is prepared to administer medicines should only do so under strictly controlled guidelines, fully confident that the administration will be safe. It is wise to limit this willingness to emergency situations only. A teacher who does take responsibility for
administering medicines takes on a heavy legal duty of care to discharge the responsibility correctly. Every reasonable precaution must be taken. Clear instructions about medicines requiring regular administration must be obtained and strictly followed.
In emergencies a teacher should do no more than is obviously necessary and appropriate to relieve extreme distress or prevent further and otherwise irreparable harm. Qualified medical attention should be secured in emergencies at the earliest opportunity. Again, no teacher can be required to administer medicine. This is a matter of individual choice and judgement. Apart from the obvious distress to the teacher who makes a mistake, that teacher would find her/himself named in a legal claim for negligence.
Arrangements in School
Whenever possible, parents should be asked to make arrangements to come into school or for pupils to return home at lunchtime for medication. Principals should provide maximum assistance in the making of these arrangements. Where this is not feasible the following procedure should operate:
- The smallest possible dose should be brought to school, preferably by the parent, with clear written instructions for administration, giving the name of the pupil. Glass containers are unsuitable to be carried by pupils.
- The medicine should not be kept by the pupil but in a locked cupboard out of reach of pupils. Certain medicines, however, such as inhalers used by asthmatic children, must be made readily accessible at all times of the school day. How this is done is a matter for the principal’s professional judgement or Employing Authority guidelines.
- The medicine should be self-administered, if possible, under the supervision of an adult. This may be the principal or someone acting with the principal’s authority. It would be advisable to keep a written record of the date and time of the administration.
[NB] Teachers cannot be instructed to administer medicine to a pupil.
INTO recommends that guidelines on administration of medicines prepared by the Employing Authority should be brought to the attention of all staff. Northern Office should be contacted as a matter of urgency if there are any problems relating to the establishment or implementation of medication guidelines.