A study led by Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Foundation Trust (CPFT) reviewing how medication is used in palliative care to support patients has been published.

Injectable medications prescribed in anticipation are commonly used by visiting nurses to help manage symptoms in the last days of life and can be prescribed weeks or months before they are needed.

Dr Ben Bowers, CPFT’s honorary nurse consultant in palliative care, worked with Isobel Wilkerson, associate director of Nursing and Quality for Older People and Adult Community (OPAC) services on a research study to understand how these medicines are managed once they are prescribed and how benefits for patients are reported. 

Dr Bowers said: “We found that injectable anticipatory medications are commonly used by visiting nurses to help manage symptoms in the last days of life.

“However, there is not enough detail recording the effectiveness of medications and perceived patient comfort in clinical records, which can impede continuity of care for patients and learning between health professionals and organisations.

“More detailed information should be routinely recorded in clinical records to assess and ensure effective use of anticipatory medicines and support person-centred care, communication and collaboration between health professionals visiting patients in the community.”

This work was supported through Dr Bowers’ Welcome Trust Postdoctoral Fellowship with the University of Cambridge Primary Care Unit and the NIHR Applied Research Collaboration East of England.

Funding was received from the National Institute for Health and Care Research, School for Primary Care Research, and the Royal College of Nursing Foundation Professional Bursary Scheme.

Dr Bowers leads a research programme to understand and improve end-of-life symptom control at home.

He brings the latest evidence to CPFT’s OPAC community nursing teams with complex patient care advice, end of life symptom control training, and reflective practice sessions.

Community and primary care nursing professionals interested in developing research skills and improving clinical practice can join the Community Nursing Research Forum at the Queen’s Nursing Institute (QNI) to access free support and research resources.