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Syringe drivers: standardising protocols to minimise errors
  1. Louise Barnes,
  2. Jacqueline Westmoreland and
  3. Christine Wilson
  1. Louise Barnes is Lecturer/Practitioner, St Catherine’s Hospice, Scarborough, Jacqueline Westmoreland is Palliative Care Pharmacist, Scarborough General Hospital, and Christine Wilson is Hospital Macmillan Palliative Care Clinical Nurse Specialist, Scarborough General Hospital. Email: louise.barnes{at}


In palliative and end-of-life care, syringe drivers are often used to administer medicines subcutaneously to patients who are unable to manage or tolerate oral medication, or for whom drug administration via the oral route is no longer practical. The safe and appropriate use of syringe drivers to achieve symptom control is an important facet of the clinical management of palliative care patients and those at the end of life. However, knowledge about them may be variable among practitioners. Several devices are currently available. Errors, sometimes fatal, have been reported when confusion has arisen during their use. This article will provide an overview of the main principles of syringe driver management. It will then go on to examine the challenge of standardisation with regard to a single syringe driver throughout a locality. It will also discuss collaborative production of guidelines and the preparation/delivery of a training package designed to promote knowledge and maximisation of safe practice with regard to the chosen syringe driver, irrespective of care setting. Conflicts of interest: none

  • Clinical practice
  • Clinical guidelines
  • Education and training
  • Palliative and end-of-life care
  • Syringe drivers

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