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Palliative care

Community pharmacy paediatric palliative care pilot launched in Scotland

A pilot scheme that aims to improve treatment for children and young adults with life-shortening conditions has been launched by the charity Children’s Hospices Across Scotland in partnership with NHS Forth Valley.

Sick child in a hospital bed

Source: Shutterstock.com

Kate McCusker, lead pharmacist at Children’s Hospices Across Scotland, explained that the service aims to make sure medicines are available when needed to support end-of-life care

A 12-month pilot of a community pharmacy-led palliative care service specifically targeted at children has launched in Scotland.

The service, thought to be the first of its kind in the UK, was launched in January 2020 by Children’s Hospices Across Scotland (CHAS), a charity that provides support to families with children with life-shortening conditions, and NHS Forth Valley, and will aim to improve treatment for babies, children and young adults with life-shortening conditions. It is an extension of the existing Community Pharmacy Palliative Care Network, which currently only delivers services for adults.

The 14 community pharmacies in the network will hold a core stock of paediatric palliative care medicines to improve timely access for patients, as well as deliver paediatric palliative care medicines advice to patients and healthcare professionals.

“In 2017, there were 16,000 children in Scotland with a life-shortening condition, and if current trends continue, this number will continue to grow,” said Kate McCusker, lead pharmacist at CHAS.

“We need to think creatively and explore new ways of working if we are too reach those 16,000,” she added.

McCusker explained that medicines used in paediatric palliative care may sometimes be required urgently and at end-of-life, but may not always be readily available in community pharmacy. The service aims to make sure these medicines are available when required to better support this patient group, she said.

“We were keen to work with community pharmacists and capitalise on their clinical expertise, their unique position in local communities and their reach across Scotland to widen the support networks available for children with life-shortening conditions, and their families,” she added.

Lizzie Chambers, director of programmes at Together for Short Lives, a UK charity for children with life-limiting conditions, said she was “delighted” to see the pilot established.

“It has huge potential to transform the way that the very sickest children in Scotland are cared for at home and we eagerly await the learnings from the pilot so that the model can be shared in other parts of the UK.

“Children with life-limiting and life-threatening conditions can have severe pain and other symptoms and their medication needs can change rapidly when they have a deterioration or when they are at end-of-life at home.” she explained.

Community pharmacists across the piloted network received training from a multidisciplinary team from CHAS including doctors, independent prescribers and advanced nurse practitioners. Topics covered included an introduction to paediatric palliative care; medicines used in paediatric palliative care; common symptoms in paediatric palliative care (specific sessions on pain, dyspnoea and constipation); enteral feeding tube drug administration and communication skills.

The pilot is currently being established in Forth Valley but there are plans to create a Scotland-wide CHAS Community Pharmacy Network. 

  • This article was amended on 3 February 2020 to correct a quote from Kate McCusker.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2020.20207635

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