Comment

Correct use of inhalers is our responsibility

The UK Inhaler Group has issued a set of standards for healthcare professionals advising on correct inhaler technique.
Asthma_spacer_use

The UK Inhaler Group has issued a set of standards for healthcare professionals advising on correct inhaler technique.

Healthcare professionals should ensure patients use the correct inhaler technique. Picture: SPL

Despite the fact that inhaled medications have been the basis for treating patients with respiratory diseases for more than 60 years, we are repeatedly reminded that many individuals cannot use their inhaler devices correctly ( Capstick and Clifton 2012 , Scullion and Holmes 2013 , Sanchis

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The UK Inhaler Group has issued a set of standards for healthcare professionals advising on correct inhaler technique.

Asthma_spacer_use
Healthcare professionals should ensure patients use the correct inhaler technique. Picture: SPL

Despite the fact that inhaled medications have been the basis for treating patients with respiratory diseases for more than 60 years, we are repeatedly reminded that many individuals cannot use their inhaler devices correctly (Capstick and Clifton 2012, Scullion and Holmes 2013, Sanchis et al 2016).

This is often because healthcare professionals cannot use the devices correctly either and they teach less than optimum techniques to patients. This in turn results in poor control and, potentially, death.

Poor inhaler technique is a common problem across all care sectors, but is especially important in older patients who may also lack manual dexterity, or have visual or cognitive impairments.

Healthcare professionals therefore have a duty of care to ensure that they know how to use inhalers correctly, and are competent to teach and review those who need to use them.

Standards

To try to improve the use of inhalers, the UK Inhaler Group (UKIG) was formed. This group of individuals from a wide range of professional and patient groups aims to remind people that inhalers contain effective medicines, but are pointless if they are used incorrectly or irregularly.

UKIG (2017) have produced inhaler standards for professionals who prescribe and/or dispense inhalers. These are principles that healthcare professionals should adhere to when prescribing inhaled medications. They are not intended to prevent people from voicing their concerns and expectations about their medications (Matthys et al 2009).

The UKIG standards provide a framework for professionals to assess and support people initiating inhaler therapies, and to check inhaler techniques. This is essential to ensure competence in prescribing inhaled medications and to teach the correct technique. In this way the standards will help healthcare professionals to consider their competencies in prescribing and administering inhalers. 

The UKIG also provides examples of how healthcare professionals can work with patients to optimise their technique and maximise the benefit of their medications (UKIG 2017).

As nurses working with older people we can draw on the standards to think about our responsibilities in delivering medication to patients and the techniques needed with different devices.

We will also have to take into account users’ manual dexterity and cognitive impairment. The correct use of inhalers is not someone else’s responsibility, it is ours. It is up to us to know it, show it, teach it and review it.


About the authors

Jane_Scullion

Jane Scullion is consultant respiratory nurse at University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust and a member of the UK Inhaler Group

Monica_Fletcher

Monica Fletcher is chief executive officer of Education for Health and chair of the UK Inhaler Group

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