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Focus on anticipatory prescribing for end of life care

Created on: 21 June 2016 Updated on: 20 September 2016

Many patients approaching the end of their lives express a desire to die at home, and this has been recognised in the National End of Life Care (EOLC) Strategy published in July 2008. Providing a good death at home is a vital part of modern General Practice, but presents unique problems for the Primary Care Team, especially during the out-of-hours period when access to the patient’s own general practice and regular pharmacy may not be possible.

Anticipatory prescribing is designed to enable prompt symptom relief at whatever time the patient develops distressing symptoms, and is based on the premise that although each patient is an individual with individual needs many acute events during the palliative period can be predicted and management measures put in place in advance.

Palliative care is traditionally thought of as being a part of cancer care, but many life-limiting illnesses such as cardiac, neurological and respiratory diseases can benefit from this approach.

Although the benefits of anticipatory prescribing are well recognised, some GPs have concerns about prescribing in this way, and this guidance is designed to help GPs with their prescribing in this important field.  

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