Anticipatory prescribing in community end-of-life care in the UK and Ireland during the COVID-19 pandemic: online survey
Bárbara Antunes, Ben Bowers, Isaac Winterburn, Michael P Kelly, Robert Brodrick, Kristian Pollock, Megha Majumder, Anna Spathis, Iain Lawrie, Rob George, Richella Ryan and Stephen Barclay
Background: Anticipatory prescribing (AP) of injectable medications in advance of clinical need is established practice in community end-of-life care. Changes to prescribing guidelines and practice have been reported during the COVID-19 pandemic. Aims and objectives: To investigate UK and Ireland clinicians’ experiences concerning changes in AP during the COVID-19 pandemic and their recommendations for change. Methods: Online survey of participants at previous AP national workshops, members of the Association for Palliative Medicine of Great Britain and Ireland and other professional organisations, with snowball sampling. Results: Two hundred and sixty-one replies were received between 9 and 19 April 2020 from clinicians in community, hospice and hospital settings across all areas of the UK and Ireland. Changes to AP local guidance and practice were reported: route of administration (47%), drugs prescribed (38%), total quantities prescribed (35%), doses and ranges (29%). Concerns over shortages of nurses and doctors to administer subcutaneous injections led 37% to consider drug administration by family or social caregivers, often by buccal, sublingual and transdermal routes. Clinical contact and patient assessment were more often remote via telephone or video (63%). Recommendations for regulatory changes to permit drug repurposing and easier community access were made. Conclusions: The challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic for UK community palliative care has stimulated rapid innovation in AP. The extent to which these are implemented and their clinical efficacy need further examination.