Aim Symptom assessment is a core component of paediatric palliative care. This audit aimed to determine whether the symptoms of children attending for routine short breaks in a children’s hospice were assessed. The development of a formal symptom assessment team is also described.
Methods The admission notes of all children attending for respite over a 2 week period in Feb 2016 were examined and data collected on Excel. The data was pulled from Vitro an online data system used within the hospice to record all nursing, medical and multi-disciplinary notes and all contacts with the family and professionals. Information gathered included diagnoses and ACT category, problematic symptoms and the use of formal symptom assessment tools.
Results A total of 22 children attended for respite over the first 2 weeks of February 2016. The average age was 7 years 2 months with a range of 1 year 11 months to 17 years. A broad range of conditions were included, the majority were from ACT category 4. As described in previous studies of children with life-limiting conditions there was a high burden of problematic symptoms among the children. 16/22 children were noted to have at least 1 symptom on the routine respite admission paperwork and nursing notes identified ongoing symptoms during the short break in 12 of the 24 children. 7/22 had respiratory symptoms, 2/22 had problematic seizures. Irritability and pain were noted in 2/22 and 3/22 respectively. 3/22 children were recorded as having poor sleep. Disappointedly although symptoms were recognised, symptom management action was only taken in 5 cases. No formal recognised symptom management tool was used. Of note the FLACC pain scale has been incorporated into the hospice paperless chart but was not used in any case.
Outcome The results of the initial audit highlighted the need to change service delivery and a new symptom assessment service incorporating a clinical nurse specialist and paediatrician with support from the broader clinical team has been developed. To date 14 children have received support from the symptom assessment team and a reaudit of routine short breaks in ongoing.
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