With trepidation we are beginning to take steps away from the crisis brought about by COVID-19. Thanks to the extraordinarily well organised vaccination programme, a large majority of the adult population has now at least one dose of the vaccine with second dose figures following swiftly, so that even if there were a rise in cases, they should be able to be managed on a local level. We know that NHS colleagues have learned such a lot about managing and treating the virus and the use of some familiar medicines, such as dexamethasone, can make a difference in outcome. Longer-term consequences are still being studied and this includes the psychological effects on patients and healthcare professionals alike.
We are seeing fewer patients in many of the hospices we visit, mostly, it seems, due to visiting restrictions and people preferring to stay at home where they can be with their families and friends. It will be interesting to see if this remains a trend. We know that most people say they would prefer to be cared for at home at the end of their life and it seems that COVID may have a long-lasting effect on facilitating this.
The drug shortages that we worried about due to the pandemic and Brexit do not seem to have materialised. This is due in no small part to careful planning and we are relieved to report that Ashtons did not see any worrying gaps in the drug supply chain and the careful eye kept on our stocks supported our customers’ requirements. As we are no longer in a crisis situation, we have revisited our reuse of medicines Standard Operating Procedure and are now sharing the version for future use, which enables us to help you repurpose discharge medicines that are not required.
This edition of the newsletter contains some clinical articles on antipsychotic drug use in Parkinson’s disease, the management of breathlessness at the end of life and a review of venous thromboembolism (VTE) prophylaxis. We also include some recent queries and small feature on the use of the new and old steroid card.
Wishing everyone a gradual return to normality while reflecting on some of the innovations and lessons of the past year.
With good wishes and kind regards,
Margaret Gibbs, Editor and Lead Palliative Care Pharmacist