Palliative care: Introduction

Last updated: Sunday, January 03, 2021

NB: See learning outcomes for this tutorial mapped to competencies and a PDF of the whole text, and a one-page summary.

☞ Why this subject matters...

Palliative care is an approach that improves the quality of life of patients and their families facing the problems associated with life-threatening illness (World Health Organisation [WHO] definition). It involves a holistic assessment of a patient's needs and effective symptom control is an important part of this. Palliative care may extend for many months and is not confined to the final days of life. 
As a pharmacist you may be asked to advise on the use of medicines for patients receiving palliative care such as those living with cancer, organ failure (e.g. heart failure) or a neurological diagnosis (e.g. multiple sclerosis). Clinical problems may range from managing side effects and drug interactions to troubleshooting administration issues. This tutorial briefly describes the management of some commonly encountered symptoms in adults.

Before reading on watch Lucy, and Joe and Melita share their stories on the impact that good palliative care has on their quality of life. A second family share their experience of the value of end of life care. A further video interview with a specialist nurse in a community hospice explains what it is like to work in a palliative care setting.