A Glasgow Neonatal Intensive Care pharmacy team is playing a leading role in transforming the survival prospects of some of Scotland’s most vulnerable babies.
Based in the Royal Hospital for Children’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), the team treats babies with complex needs - including babies born as early as 23 weeks and others weighing as little as 1lb.
The unit is the UK’s largest NICU with 52 cots spread over two floors. It receives all high risk babies, including those with cardiac defects or surgical defects, in Scotland as well as the full range of premature infants born across the board's area.
The team, which works with premature babies on a daily basis, was named Hospital Pharmacy Team of the Year at the prestigious Scottish Pharmacy Awards last week.
The recognition of their work comes just one week ahead of World Prematurity Day which is being held today.
One in 10 children are born prematurely each year - approximately 15 million babies – with prematurity being the leading cause of death in children aged under five.
Formed in 2015 when four of the city’s hospitals closed and transferred to the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital campus, the team is made up of four prescribing pharmacists and one clinical pharmacy technician.
All four pharmacists are based full-time in the unit providing a full clinical pharmacy service and participating in daily ward rounds with medical and nursing staff.
This has led to them developing medication treatment strategies for premature babies weighing as little as 1lb – the equivalent of four bananas.
They also work to ensure drugs levels are safe and optimised in line with patients changing weights and clinical condition as well as optimising nutrition. The team led the development of a new multidisciplinary nutrition guide for neonates in the West of Scotland which will lead to improved nutrition for vulnerable babies who can’t take food orally.
Peter Mulholland, team leader of the Neonatal Intensive Care Pharmacy Team, said: “The move to the RHC gave us the perfect opportunity to re-design our service to have a more team-based approach and fully embrace technology which means this award is another welcome validation of the work we’re doing.
“Making sure we give babies the very best pharmaceutical and holistic care possible is at the very core of everything we do.
“We’re part of the neonatal multidisciplinary team meaning we are involved in the daily care of a broad range of neonatal patients.
“As a result, this can include extreme premature babies such as 23 weeks gestation as well as babies with complex surgical and cardiac conditions in addition to many other conditions in between.
“For babies who have been on long term sedation, the team create and monitor weaning plans to ensure a safe transition for the next stage of their care.
“We are involved in a number of multi-disciplinary teaching areas, ranging from medication and prescription training for new doctors, medication training for nurses who are new to the unit, and refresher training for experienced nurses.”
The team played an instrumental role in developing an electronic system which ensures babies continue to receive the appropriate drugs and dosages once they move to another ward in the hospital or move to hospitals in their own board area.
It also led the development of a web based medicine monograph system for the West of Scotland Neonatal Network to ensure all babies within the network receive safe doses of medicines in a standardised way to minimise the risk of errors. These are now being used as the foundation to create a national system which will roll out to the rest of Scotland.
The Scottish Pharmacy awards, hosted by Shereen Najiani, were held at the Hilton in Glasgow’s William Street on Wednesday, 08 November.