Aim To evaluate whether healthcare professionals within the local community are able to counsel paediatric patients on the essential steps required for drug delivery with multi-dose inhalers (MDI), MDIs with a spacer and turbohalers.
Method An expert panel produced and piloted checklists for essential and good practice counselling steps. Eligible participants included healthcare professionals regularly counselling children on inhaler devices, including doctors, nurses and pharmacy team members. Participants were recruited through purposive sampling on a general paediatric ward in a major children's hospital over 2 months and local community pharmacies. Participants counselled on each technique through simulated paediatric scenarios and were assessed by a trained researcher.
Results The audit captured 92 healthcare professionals, comprising 43 nurses, 9 doctors, 13 hospital pharmacy staff and 27 community pharmacies team members.
Overall 13% (12/92) of participants counselled on all the essential criteria for an MDI inhaler. Pharmacy teams within the hospital and community saw the highest competency levels with 31% (4/13) and 30% (8/27) of staff able to discuss the essential steps respectively, no doctors or nurses were able to indentify all steps.
10% (9/92) of participants were able to counsel on all essential steps for a MDI with a spacer device, with no nurse nor doctor achieving all steps. Hospital pharmacy staff were most likely to discuss all the essential steps with 6/13 staff competent and 3/27 community pharmacy team members counselled on the required steps. Commonly omitted steps included shaking the inhaler and leaving sufficient time between doses.
Competency levels for turbohaler counselling were low, only 5 participants were able to counsel on the essential steps required. Commonly omitted or incorrect descriptions surrounded the priming of the device and incorrect inhalation technique.
Conclusion Our findings mirror those of previously published studies with an adult focused counselling set,these concluded that less than 10% of healthcare professionals were competent with an MDI.1 Though respiratory conditions represent a large proportion of paediatric consultants, healthcare staff are failing to equip patients and carers with the knowledge and skills to utilise even the most common inhaler devices. With the NHS spending £900 million on inhalers2 and hospital admissions increasing dramatically3 more needs to be done to improve inhaler literacy within the local healthcare community.
A comprehensive review of training methods needs to be undertaken to ensure these meet the requirements of the local healthcare community. A renewed emphasis on asthma care is required including standard methods for counselling on inhalers.
A competency document should be created to assess and validate healthcare professionals to ensure the delivery of accurate and high quality inhaler counselling.
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