Pharmacy Research UK announces launch of “Pill School”: Maximising access to medicines for children within the NHS

As part of Pharmacy Research UK (PRUK)’s £250k funding into larger projects, we are delighted to announce funding that will be used to launch a “Pill School”. This project is designed to help train young patients to take tablets and capsules and will be hosted, and part funded, by the Evelina London Children’s Hospital.  The project will be led by Dr Asia Rashed, Research Pharmacist at King’s College London and Evelina London Children’s Hospital.

Liquid medicines have many disadvantages: they tend to have a short expiry, unpleasant taste, they rely on (often parents’) dose measurement, they are inconvenient to store and carry, and often have a higher cost.  Using a tablet or capsule offers numerous advantages such as improved safety, convenience and reduced cost, as well as evidence emerging that children prefer tablets, if they have been taught to swallow.  Despite the fact that even young children can swallow tablets, there are no systematic swallowing training sessions established as an integrated part of the NHS healthcare service available to children.

This project’s aims are to develop an intervention called Pill School to train children how to swallow solid dosage forms; to test and evaluate this intervention within a hospital setting; to identify the proportion of children at the study site who can, with training, be swapped from liquid medicines to tablets/capsules; and to assess the opinions of the Pill School from the child, their parent/carer and the healthcare professionals involved in the study.

Miss Angela King, Interim CEO of PRUK said: “PRUK is delighted to be partner funding this project with the Evelina London Children’s Hospital.  This is a level of care for sick children that is much needed, and I am confident that the project will provide a template that will be of lasting benefit to children in many other hospitals.”

Dr Asia Rashed said: “We are delighted with the PRUK funding which will allow us to develop a pill swallowing training session within an NHS hospital. There is evidence to show that children are usually capable of swallowing tablets but often receive their medicines in liquid forms. There is also evidence to show that a single short pill swallowing training session can enable children to make the switch from liquids to tablets. Discussion with children and their parents suggest that tackling pill swallowing from a younger age would help improve their experience with drug administration and reduce administration errors associated with liquids. This is an important project that will lay down the basis for a future larger study.”

Steve Tomlin, Associate Chief Pharmacist at Evelina Children’s Hospital said: “We are delighted to be able to conduct this research with the generous support of PRUK.  Many children from as young as 3 years old prefer solid dose forms as they are easier to take, have little or no taste and are easier to carry around. From a professional point of view tablets are often cheaper, have less excipients, can have preferable release mechanisms and are less risky in terms of ensuring the correct dose is being given. The PRUK grant will enable us to look at this topic from the perspective of children, parents and health care professionals as well as look at the practical implications for service set up, training and educational tools. We look forward to being able to pass on our findings to improve care of children needing to take medicines.”

PRUK will be contributing £50,000 to fund this project; Evelina is contributing an additional £12,519 to fund the activities undertaken by the research nurse and pharmacist.

See more information on the project here

For further information please email:  Practice.Research@rpharms.com

Notes to Editors:

PRUK is the principal funder of pharmacy research in the UK. Founded as a result of a merger in 2012 of two previous research funding charities, PRUK has a broad programme of research in place. PRUK funds both research projects and individual bursaries to improve skills across the pharmacy sector. Registered charity number 1148335.

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