23 Findings from a pilot and feasibility trial of a music therapy intervention in specialist palliative care

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Music therapy aligns to the holistic approach to palliative and end-of-life care (PEOLC) with increased prevalence in PEOLC settings (Graham-Wisener et al. 2018). Despite this there is a dearth of high-quality evidence examining the impact of music therapy towards end of life on quality of life (McConnell et al. 2016).


The aim of this pilot and feasibility study was to: test procedures; outcomes and validated tools; estimate recruitment and attrition rates; and calculate the sample size required for a phase III randomised controlled trial.


A single-centre pilot and feasibility trial with patients admitted to a specialist palliative care inpatient unit within the United Kingdom. Participants were randomised (1:1) to either a music therapy intervention of two 30–45 min sessions of music therapy per week for three consecutive weeks or usual care. The primary outcome measure was to evaualte the feasibility of administering the McGill Quality of Life Questionnaire (MQoL) baseline with follow-up measures at one, three and five weeks.


51 participants were recruited to the trial over a 12 month period. Feasibility of administering music therapy intervention and attrition rates identified one-week follow-up as an appropriate primary outcome. Results suggest a likely effect on MQoL total score between intervention and control arms in particular the existential subscale.


The current study resolved a number of issues towards informing robust procedures for a phase III RCT. This data is urgently needed to ensure an evidence-based decision on inclusion of music therapy in palliative care services.

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