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Objectives To understand healthcare professionals’ experiences of delivering anticipatory prescribing (AP) during the first wave of the UK COVID-19 pandemic. Methods Semistructured qualitative interviews were conducted with a purposive sample of 16 healthcare professionals involved in community palliative care. Data were analysed inductively using thematic analysis. Results Some of practitioners’ fears about the pandemic’s impact on delivering AP had not been realised during the first wave. Among patients with COVID-19 for whom community end-of-life care was deemed appropriate, deaths were perceived to be relatively easy to palliate with standard medications. These deaths were typically too rapid for AP to be appropriate or feasible. For non-COVID deaths, providing timely AP was more challenging: although community nurses and some palliative specialists continued to visit patients regularly, general practitioners did many fewer visits, moving abruptly to mainly remote consultations. This left some community nurses feeling undersupported, and prompted some palliative specialists to increase their direct involvement in AP. Several other changes were widely welcomed: collaboration to maintain drug supplies, adoption of online meetings and paperless practice, enhanced specialist helplines and a new policy allowing reuse of medication in care homes. The inclusion of more non-injectable options in AP protocols allowed clinicians to offer selected patients more choice, but few had yet done this in practice. No participants reported changing their prepandemic practice regarding administration of AP by lay caregivers. Conclusions Accomplishing AP during a pandemic was challenging, requiring healthcare professionals to make rapid changes to their systems and practices. Some changes may produce lasting improvements.

More information Original publication



Journal article


BMJ Supportive and Palliative Care



Publication Date



BB is funded by the NIHR School for Primary Care Research.