The roles, responsibilities and practices of healthcare assistants in out-of-hours community palliative care: A systematic scoping review

Anne Fee, Deborah Muldrew, Paul F Slater, Sheila Payne, Sonja J McIlfatrick, Tracey McConnell, Dori-Anne FInlay, F. Hasson

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)
515 Downloads (Pure)


Background: Access to community palliative care 'out-of-hours' - defined as care provided after the normal hours of work - is advocated globally. Healthcare assistants, who provide care under the direction of a qualified professional, are increasingly employed to help deliver such care, yet there is a little understanding regarding their role, responsibilities or contribution.

Aim: The aim of this study was to identify the roles, responsibilities and contributions of healthcare assistants in out-of-hours community palliative care.

Design: Scoping review.

Data sources: Five bibliographic databases (CINAHL, MEDLINE, EMBASE, PsycINFO and Scopus) and grey literature were searched using a predefined search strategy. The review was conducted in accordance with the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses extension for Scoping Reviews statement.

Results: The search yielded six papers using quantitative, qualitative and mixed methods. Results highlighted a lack of recognition of the role and contribution of healthcare assistants. A concurrent theme was that healthcare assistants continually monitored and responded to patient's and family's physical and emotional needs; there was also self-reported evidence indicating patient and family benefit, such as maintaining a sense of normality and support to remain at home.

Discussion: This review highlighted a dearth of evidence relating to the healthcare assistant role in out-of-hours palliative care. Limited evidence suggests they play a role, but that it is hidden and undervalued. Such invisibility will have a significant impact on the planning and delivery of out-of-hours palliative care. Future research is needed on role development for the benefit of patients and caregivers.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)976-988
Number of pages13
JournalPalliative Medicine
Issue number8
Early online date16 Jun 2020
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 1 Sept 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: This research was funded by a research grant awarded to Dr Felicity Hasson by Marie Curie UK (REF MCRGS-20171219-8007).

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2020.

Copyright 2020 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Healthcare assistant
  • adult
  • after-hours
  • community
  • home care
  • palliative care
  • scoping review


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