Evaluation of the effectiveness of music therapy in improving the quality of life of palliative care patients: a randomised controlled pilot and feasibility study

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Music therapy is frequently used as a palliative therapy (Demmer, 2004), with the primary aim of improving people’s quality of life. To date, primarily because of a paucity of robust research, the evidence for music therapy’s effectiveness on patient reported outcomes is positive but weak (McConnell et al., 2016).


This pilot and feasibility study will: test procedures; outcomes and validated tools; estimate recruitment and attrition rates; and calculate the sample size required for a phase III randomised trial to evaluate the effectiveness of music therapy in improving the quality of life of palliative care patients.


A pilot controlled trial supplemented with qualitative methods with n = 52 patients from an inpatient and day hospice setting. Baseline data collection includes the McGill Quality of Life Questionnaire (MQOL), medical and socio-demographic data. Participants in the intervention arm are offered two 30–45 minute sessions of music therapy per week for 3 consecutive weeks, in addition to care as usual. Participants in the control arm receive care as usual. Follow-up measures administered at 3 and 5-weeks. Qualitative data collection involves focus group/interviews with HCPs and carers.


The results of the study will ensure a firm methodological grounding for the development of a robust phase III randomised trial of music therapy for improving quality of life in palliative care patients.


By undertaking the pilot and feasibility trial under normal clinical conditions in a hospice setting, the trial will result in reliable procedures to overcome some of the difficulties in designing music therapy RCTs for palliative care settings.

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