Ask the Care Specialists

Welcome to our 'Ask the Care Specialists', your one-stop portal for social care-related questions. Our team of specialists will try to answer as many of your Social Care questions as possible.

Is it legal to wake a resident up to give them medication?

I am a care worker working nights and my manager says its ok to wake people at 5am to give them their medication, is this legal?

Thank you for your question J, sadly this is a question that we get asked all too frequently. In fact Sheila Scott who has now retired from QCS answered this question in 2017 and you can read the response here.  In terms of whether this is legal, I think it is far wider than is it legal. It is a question of dignity, of choice, of consent and capacity. We have discussed this question with our team of specialists at QCS and Barry Price’s comments were very much about walking in the shoes of your resident. If you were in a deep sleep dreaming of your loved ones, your past or your life dreams and aspirations coming true. A feeling of deep joy and relaxation. Then suddenly you wake with a shaking hand on your shoulder shouting your name often in a rushed tone. “Are you in pain” “Do you want some pain relief” “Time for your Meds”. What would be your response and how would it make you feel?


Staff are taught and I’m sure you are no different with medication training administration the 6 R's of administration: right resident, right medicine, right route, right dose, right time, resident's right to refuse.


In routine planning you will have  Medication support plan, Medication Risk Assessment. Mental Capacity Assessments and Best Interest Decisions in place for those who do not have capacity.


But how many of these plans state “what to do if……. They are asleep?


And that is the key. Staff teams follow medication training, policies, and procedures tighter than any other policy due to the Blame culture within social care and we all know someone who has made a medication error (Including me, more than one). As a result, our documentation needs to be very clear as to what the staff need to do. NICE in guidance in November 2020 also state that providers should have in place a Process for making sure medicines are used safely and effectively including “what to do if the person is having a meal or is asleep”.


There is no real reason that would approve waking people up for a medication round because it suits the needs of the administrator or its meds round time. Obviously there may be a case such as antibiotics that state every 8 Hours but even these after discussion with a prescriber can be varied to protect an individual’s dignity and choice. Even with this there is flexibility as there is significant research about the healing benefits of sleep, interrupting to give medication may do more harm than good.


If you search on the CQC website you will see that they take very negative view on this in inspection reports and do focus on medication during inspections in great detail.


So finally: in answer to your question. It is not illegal, but it is poor practice and if it isn’t be done for the right reasons, it is a safeguarding issue. That then does become a legal issue.

Philippa Shirtcliffe

QCS Clinical Policy Lead

Philippa Shirtcliffe is Head of quality at QCS. She is a registered nurse with over 30 years working in Health and Social Care. She has had varied career undertaking operational and strategic leadership roles within social care. Read more

What would you like to ask our Specialists?

Have you got a social care question that you just can't find the answer to? Our team of sector specialists is here to provide you with easy-to-understand top tips on a wide range of topics, from dementia, mental health to employment law or every day operational queries to help you deliver outstanding care.

We try to answer as many of your questions as possible. We give priority to frequently asked questions and questions regarding current events and trends. To learn more about the team visit:

Please note that our specialists cannot offer answers to matters requiring legal advice. Please do have a look at our website at other answers provided by our experts and in our Expert Insights section There is a wealth of information here freely accessible that could help you.

Important note: We are not in any way affiliated or connected to the Care Quality Commission, Care Inspectorate Scotland, or Care Inspectorate Wales. If your query relates to someone who is at risk of harm or in danger, you must follow your local safeguarding procedures. It is important that you speak to your regulator who will provide you with the best guidance and support.

    Join over 130,000 users already using the QCS Management System!
    Start Free Trial Buy Now
    Back to Top