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Scenario: Inhalers in schools

Vicky, the pharmacy technician, tells Parveen that a lady from the local school is asking to “buy a couple of salbutamol inhalers”...

“I’m not going mad, am I? There hasn’t been a POM to P switch without me noticing?”

“No, there hasn’t,” replies Parveen. “Is it an emergency supply she’s after?”

“She wants it for the school’s first aid room, so if one of the students has forgotten their inhaler, they can use the school one,” says Vicky. “

Oh yes, that is the case now,” says Parveen, “but it isn’t quite as simple as walking into a pharmacy and buying one!”

Answer

In order for this member of staff to obtain a salbutamol inhaler for use in the school she works in, she needs to provide a signed order. This piece of paper must state the name of the school, the purpose for which the inhaler is intended (any acute reliever inhaler may be purchased) and the total quantity required (this is likely to depend on the number of sites the school is on and the number of children on the roll).

The paper must be signed by the headteacher or principal of the school in question. It is considered good practice for the school to use headed paper and for the pharmacy to verify that the name of the headteacher aligns with that of the school.

A record should be made in the prescription register, to include the date of supply, the name and quantity of the POM supplied (plus formulation and strength if appropriate), the name, address and profession of the person to whom the item was supplied, and the reason. The signed order should also be retained for two years.

The bigger picture

Legislation allowing schools to hold a stock of reliever inhalers for asthma came into force a few years ago, but it is still not widely understood. The inhalers are intended for supply in an emergency by a person trained in their administration to pupils who are known to possibly require such medication. Before this came into law, children with asthma were expected to carry their own inhalers or to have supplied one to the school in case they needed to use it.

With the respiratory disease so common, inevitably there were cases where pupils required reliever medication but didn’t have their own available – perhaps because they hadn’t given one to the school, had left it at home, or the device held by the school had expired – so were having to ‘borrow’ or seek urgent medical treatment, which caused distress and delays to what can be life-saving treatment.

 

Extend your learning

• How would you verify that the headteacher who has signed the order is attached to the school for whom the inhaler is intended? Have a look at rpharms.com/resources/quick-reference-guides/supply-of-salbutamol-inhalers- to-schools (members only)

• Read the guidance on the topic published by the Department of Health at gov.uk/government/publications/emergency-asthma-inhalers-for-use-in-schools

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