End-of-life standards jointly published by the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) and charity Marie Curie have suggested that WhatsApp groups should be set up by groups of pharmacies to alert each other about the availability of ‘critical’ end-of-life care medicines that are in short supply.
The eight ‘RPS/Marie Curie UK quality improvement (Daffodil) standards‘, published on 22 May 2023, were developed to improve the care that community pharmacies can offer to patients nearing the end of their lives.
Once they achieve the standards, pharmacies will be able to display a ‘daffodil mark’ to patients and their carers.
The standards say that community pharmacies should proactively manage the supply of palliative and end-of-life medicines, using “clear and well publicised local arrangements in place for the ‘critical’ list of medicines”, and a system for sharing information with prescribers on local or national supply chain problems, so that disruption to patients is kept to a minimum.
One suggestion is that local pharmacies could join WhatsApp groups, where information can be shared on where to locate medicines in short supply.
The ‘Daffodil standards’ also recommend that local multidisciplinary teams should work together to ensure community pharmacies are made aware of which patients are approaching the end of life, so that they and their carers can be better supported.
As read/write access to electronic patient records remains limited, the standards note that community pharmacies often have to rely on “informal” systems to keep them up to date, so having an agreed protocol for identifying people with palliative end-of-life care needs would improve the support on offer.
Support should continue to be offered to carers in the event of bereavement, including advice on how to access bereavement support, the standards say.
Where appropriate, this should include advice on specific support for children and adolescents, and culturally specific support groups.
In a statement published alongside the community pharmacy standards, the RPS said that adopting the standards means that pharmacies “commit to making improvements in at least three of eight core aspects of care each year, with the aim of having reviewed all of them after three years”.
The draft standards were put out for consultation in late 2022.
Claire Anderson, president of the RPS, commented: “Community pharmacies already make a huge impact on how patients and families experience end-of-life care as patients trust and value the easy access to expertise that they provide.
“We’re delighted to be able to launch these quality improvement standards with Marie Curie and hope they provide positive support to community pharmacy teams and their patients at a challenging time.”
Sarah Holmes, chief medical officer and palliative care consultant at Marie Curie, said: “The support that people receive from colleagues in community pharmacy can have a significant impact on the care of those approaching the end of life and the bereaved.
“Having someone they can go to who they already know well, and trust, is vitally important at such a difficult time.”