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The role and response of primary healthcare services in the delivery of palliative care during COVID-19: A mixed methods investigation and co-production of a framework for primary palliative care in pandemics

Why does this research matter?

COVID-19 has caused primary healthcare services to make significant service changes to deliver palliative and end-of-life care in the community, including in care homes, within a short timeframe. This is an area with important clinical challenges that has not been researched in previous pandemics.

How will this research help?

This study aims to provide learning and knowledge from primary care delivering palliative and end-of-life care during COVID-19. We will use this to produce a framework to guide practice and policy enabling a quick response and delivery of the best possible end-of-life care for patients during the next phases of COVID-19 and beyond.

How will we do this?

Prior to this study, we will conduct a national survey of general practitioners and community nurses. During the study, we will interview general practitioners and community nurses to get more detailed information about what has worked well and what has been challenging.

How will this make a difference?

The results of the study will be used to co-design a framework for services in partnership with patients, families, members of the public and policy makers. The framework will inform service changes and lead to improvements in care now during COVID-19 and during future pandemics.

Survey findings show contrasting and potentially conflicting roles between GPs and community nurses concerning their response to the increased demand and complexity of PEOLC during the pandemic. The significant emotional impact, especially for community nurses, needs addressing alongside rebuilding trusting and supportive team dynamics.

Funded by:

RCGP Scientific Foundation Board

Research team members:

Sarah Mitchell, GP and Yorkshire Cancer Research Senior Research Fellow, University of Sheffield, Honorary Clinical Research Fellow, University of Warwick

Catriona Mayland, Consultant in Palliative Medicine and Yorkshire Cancer Research Senior Research Fellow, University of Sheffield

Phillip Oliver, GP and Senior Research Fellow, University of Sheffield

Clare Gardiner, Senior Research Fellow, University of Sheffield

Helen Chapman, District Nurse and Head of Integrated Community Care at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

Dena Khan, Patient and Public Involvement representative

Kirsty Boyd, Consultant in Palliative Medicine and Honorary Reader, University of Edinburgh

Jeremy Dale, Professor of Primary Care, University of Warwick

Stephen Barclay, Senior Lecturer in General Practice and Palliative Care, University of Cambridge / Honorary Professor in Palliative and Primary Care at the University of East Anglia Norwich Medical School.


Aug 2020 - ongoing


Dr Sarah Mitchell

s dot j dot mitchell at sheffield dot ac dot uk