The challenges of uncertainty and interprofessional collaboration in palliative care for non-cancer patients in the community: a systematic review of views from patients, carers and health-care professionals

Palliat Med. 2014 Oct;28(9):1081-98. doi: 10.1177/0269216314531999. Epub 2014 May 12.


Background: Primary care has the potential to play significant roles in providing effective palliative care for non-cancer patients.

Aim: To identify, critically appraise and synthesise the existing evidence on views on the provision of palliative care for non-cancer patients by primary care providers and reveal any gaps in the evidence.

Design: Standard systematic review and narrative synthesis.

Data sources: MEDLINE, Embase, CINAHL, PsycINFO, Applied Social Science Abstract and the Cochrane library were searched in 2012. Reference searching, hand searching, expert consultations and grey literature searches complemented these. Papers with the views of patients/carers or professionals on primary palliative care provision to non-cancer patients in the community were included. The amended Hawker's criteria were used for quality assessment of included studies.

Results: A total of 30 studies were included and represent the views of 719 patients, 605 carers and over 400 professionals. In all, 27 studies are from the United Kingdom. Patients and carers expect primary care physicians to provide compassionate care, have appropriate knowledge and play central roles in providing care. The roles of professionals are unclear to patients, carers and professionals themselves. Uncertainty of illness trajectory and lack of collaboration between health-care professionals were identified as barriers to effective care.

Conclusions: Effective interprofessional work to deal with uncertainty and maintain coordinated care is needed for better palliative care provision to non-cancer patients in the community. Research into and development of a best model for effective interdisciplinary work are needed.

Keywords: Palliative care; chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; community health services; heart failure; interprofessional relations; primary health care.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Delivery of Health Care / organization & administration
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Health Services Needs and Demand
  • Health Services Research
  • Humans
  • Interprofessional Relations*
  • Palliative Care / organization & administration
  • Palliative Care / standards*
  • Patient Satisfaction
  • Professional Role
  • United Kingdom