Understanding the Potential for Pharmacy Expertise in Palliative Care: The Value of Stakeholder Engagement in a Theoretically Driven Mapping Process for Research

Pharmacy (Basel). 2021 Nov 26;9(4):192. doi: 10.3390/pharmacy9040192.


Potentially avoidable medication-related harm is an inherent risk in palliative care; medication management accounts for approximately 20% of reported serious incidents in England and Wales. Despite their expertise benefiting patient care, the routine contribution of pharmacists in addressing medication management failures is overlooked. Internationally, specialist pharmacist support for palliative care services remains under-resourced. By understanding experienced practices ('what happens in the real world') in palliative care medication management, compared with intended processes ('what happens on paper'), patient safety issues can be identified and addressed. This commentary demonstrates the value of stakeholder engagement and consultation work carried out to inform a scoping review and empirical study. Our overall goal is to improve medication safety in palliative care. Informal conversations were undertaken with carers and various specialist and non-specialist professionals, including pharmacists. Themes were mapped to five steps: decision-making, prescribing, monitoring and supply, use (administration), and stopping and disposal. A visual representation of stakeholders' understanding of intended medicines processes was produced. This work has implications for our own and others' research by highlighting where pharmacy expertise could have a significant additional impact. Evidence is needed to support best practice and implementation, particularly with regard to supporting carers in monitoring and accessing medication, and communication between health professionals across settings.

Keywords: end-of-life care; medication management; palliative care; patient safety; stakeholder engagement.