The Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust

‘Medicine Champions’ encourage children to move from liquid medication to tablets

3 July 2019

Young patients at Leeds Children’s Hospital are being encouraged to take tablets instead of liquid medicines, leading to a better and safer patient experience. Through a ‘Medicines Optimisation’ project the Paediatric Pharmacy team are supporting parents and children who want to make the switch to tablets.

Taking tablets over liquid medicine is often preferred due to a number of reasons. The volume of liquid medicines can be large, and can be difficult to carry outside of the home, whereas tablets are much more portable. The texture and flavour of liquid medicines can often leave an unpleasant taste, and children may refuse to take them. By contrast, tablets once swallowed rarely leave a bad after-taste and remove many of stresses associated with medicine taking.Liquid to tablet medicines 2

The main challenge to taking tablets is learning to swallow them. To help their young patients overcome this, the team set out to create a culture whereby medicine taking is not just the responsibility of the Pharmacy team but also the nursing, medical and play teams. The play team have become 'Medicine Champions' in providing children with the tools, confidence and ability to swallow tablets and capsules.

Our play specialists provide parents with information and the tools to help young patients master swallowing techniques at home, often practising with sweets before progressing to the tablets themselves. Children who have successfully mastered swallowing tablets are awarded a special ‘Star Award’ certificate to recognise their hard work and to give young patients something to aspire to.

Anna Kinsella, Paediatric Clinical Pharmacy Team Lead, said: “We have shown that by working together with families,  and with a little creativity, all of us have a role to play in creating an easier experience for not only the patient but also for the patient’s parent or carer who is responsible for managing their medicines safely at home.”

Andreanna Kosmirak, Specialist Clinical Pharmacist, said: “Liquid medicines often have a shorter expiry than tablets, so by switching to tablets, the Paediatric Pharmacy team have reduced the amount of wastage. Tablets often cost less than the liquid preparations available.  By supporting and encouraging families in making the switch from liquids to tablets, the team have been able to reduce the overall spend on medicines.

Anna said: “We have achieved a much-improved patient experience as a result, combined with a decreased spend on medicines. We now have more children than ever before taking tablets, even as young as three years old - this is a really positive example of ‘Medicines Optimisation’ in practice, putting patients at the heart of everything we do with medicines.”

Patient and parent feedback from the project has been really positive:

“Changing to tablets was so much easier than we expected: no syringes, no mess, no bad taste. Taking medicines is so much quicker now and a lot less fuss.”

“Life is so much easier and I don’t regret getting rid of the nose tube one bit."

“Tablets are easier to carry around with us, there is no spillage, no need for syringes, and there is no after-taste for the child.”