Ask Sheila - Archive England

Sheila Scott OBE has now retired and therefore is no longer available to answer your social care questions. However, you might still find the answer you’ve been searching for down below.

15th November 2017

Can a Home Refuse to Tell People What Medication They Are On?

Can a person know what their medications are, if in a  care home for respite and having capacity? Can a home refuse to tell them what meds they are on? Is it data protection as they suggested?


Dear J,


This is 2017 and people have the right to know all about their own treatment unless a specific decision has been made to withhold that information by the Doctor and as long as the person has mental capacity.


I have consulted my colleague Rachel Griffiths, QCS’s Mental Capacity and Human Rights Specialist about this response and this is our best advice.


We all have the right to consent to (or refuse) any treatment, or medication, that a doctor suggests.


Is there anything in the care plan about this decision, if there is, has the decision been properly made?


If a person lacks capacity to make the decision about whether or not to take their medication, then the decision to give it or not has to be a best interests’ decision made in accordance with the Mental Capacity Act (MCA).


Your question, of course, leaves me with many questions:

  • Is your question saying that the person in receipt of respite care is being refused the information about the medication they are being given?
  • Does the person have the mental capacity to decide whether or not to take medication suggested by the doctor?
  • Has it been decided (by the doctor in consultation with the relatives) that the person should be given their medication covertly?  (This would include saying, ‘it’s just a tonic’).


I am clear that, assuming the person has mental capacity, they have the right to know (data protection has no part to play in this).


It is for the individual patient to decide whether other people should know what medication they are on.


If it is assessed that the person may not have the mental capacity to make this decision, and particularly if it is thought that their medication should be given covertly, in their best interests, there should be full recording of how this decision was reached.


Covert medication is a serious matter, not to be decided on lightly.


Please see the NICE guideline on Managing Medicines in Care Homes, section 1.15, at:


Please come back to me if there is further information you would like to share with me.


I hope this is helpful.




*All information is correct at the time of publishing.

About Sheila

Sheila Scott OBE has now retired and over the years , prior to her retirement she has answered thousands of your social questions. You can still access the many questions below.

For Sheila Scott OBE as the former CEO of National Care Association (NCA), care is Sheila's life. She possesses a strong command of the issues facing the care sector informed by her long career as a nursing professional, the owner and manager of a care business, and as a leader in the care sector.

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