A ‘pill school’ programme at the Royal Brompton Hospital in London, which guides children and young people when transitioning from liquid medication to tablets, is now available virtually.
The programme has been running for eight years and supports families with daily medication routines and structured tuition for young patients needing to move to tablet medication.
Led by the hospital’s play team, it is specially designed to be a fun and engaging process to build children’s confidence with taking tablet medication.
Following its success, and with advances in drug treatments for conditions such as cystic fibrosis resulting in a reduction in hospital stays and an increase in different clinical teams holding virtual outpatient appointments, the team recognised the opportunity to support more children via a virtual format.
Patients can now be referred to the hospital’s virtual pill school by their clinical team or families can refer themselves to the service.
Maxine Ovens, play service manager at Royal Brompton Hospital, said: ‘We’re delighted that children and young people with heart or lung conditions accessing our hospital’s specialist services can now benefit from our pill school even when they aren’t in hospital.
‘Swapping liquid medication to tablets has many benefits. Tablets are easier to transport and store and reduce the risk of dosage error. They are also cheaper to buy, reducing the cost for both the family and the trust.’
After an initial assessment by a senior play specialist either in person in the outpatient department or virtually on Microsoft Teams, families are provided with a pack including clear guidance, instructions and a sports water bottle.
This initial assessment is then followed by a daily Microsoft Teams session with a senior play specialist who leads and supports the child or young person through their transition to tablet medication.
In May 2023, the pharmacy team at Evelina London Children’s Hospital – also part of the Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust – launched its own pill school to support children across its inpatient wards and outpatient departments.
Dr Asia Rashed, pharmacy project manager at Evelina London Children’s Hospital, said: ‘We start children off using a small hard sweet approximately 3mm wide, and slowly increase the size to be approximately the same as the tablet, normally about 1cm to 1.5cm. Children will swallow food bigger than these sizes, so the training provides tips on how to angle their head and to provide reassurance.’