A service evaluation of pharmacists’ role in opioids medicines management in a palliative care and cancer care setting in England

Pharmacists at the Oxford University Hospital (OUH) Palliative Care and Cancer Care Teams provide a safe and effective opioid medications management service for managing pain. The ongoing project aims to assess the role of pharmacists in managing opioid medications.

Department: Pharmacy

Supervised by: Atta Naqvi

The Placement Project

In the UK, about 0.3 million individuals are diagnosed with cancer annually, and many others suffer from chronic or neurodegenerative diseases. These conditions often lead to pain, necessitating opioid use for relief. Unfortunately, pain from these illnesses, particularly cancer, is frequently undertreated, as noted by the NHS, with a 53% prevalence of chronic pain among adults over 75 years old. Opioids are fundamental in managing palliative care pain, both for cancer and non-cancer related conditions. Various opioids are licensed in the UK, but their prescribing sometimes deviates from standard practices. Pharmacists play a vital role in ensuring the safe and effective prescription of opioids. In the UK, pharmacists have significantly reduced opioid-related harm through interventions like dose adjustments and enhanced symptom management, as observed in a GP practice in Scotland. At Oxford University Hospital (OUH), the Palliative Care Team includes pharmacists working in diverse settings such as hospice inpatient units, hospitals, community care teams, and outpatient clinics. The OUH Cancer Pharmacy Team also operates in inpatient wards, outpatient clinics, and Day Treatment Units. These pharmacists are likely involved in opioid medicines management, though their specific roles are not well-defined. Currently, there's a lack of research documenting pharmacists' satisfaction and confidence in their roles. To address this, a service evaluation is planned to define the roles pharmacists play in opioid management, identify challenges, assess their satisfaction and confidence, and make future recommendations. This evaluation will involve pharmacists in palliative and cancer care teams in a mixed-methods study comprising surveys and interviews.


The student will obtain an honorary contract and attend the department for a week to review the work in practice under the supervision of a clinical staff (Melinda Presland will be the second supervisor). The student will send out study invite to the clinical supervisor who will then distribute the study information through their official email among pharmacists. The data will be collected online, and interviews will be conducted via MS Teams. The data in anonymised form will be reported descriptively and themes will be extracted from the interview transcripts. A service evaluation report will be prepared by the student and will be shared with the clinical settings to aide in identifying best practices within this realm. The student may also prepare an abstract for any conference if time and progress permits.

Skills, knowledge and experience required

A student with good communication verbal and written communication skills, who is passionate about research, willing to travel to Oxford for a week, and can work independently as well as in a team will be the ideal candidate for this work. Additional criteria include experience of reviewing literature using PubMed, etc., and understanding of qualitative and quantitative methods.

Skills which will be developed during the placement

The student will acquire knowledge of research methods, develop project management, interview, and academic writing skills and, gain some experience of working with healthcare professionals in palliative and cancer care.

Place of Work

The student will travel to Oxford for a week and later, work from home or from the university. The student will need to find and fund their own accommodation and travel.

Hours of Work


Approximate Start and End Dates (not fixed)

Monday 17 June 2024 - Friday 30 August 2024

How to Apply

The deadline to apply for this project is 5pm on Friday 5th April 2024. To make an application, please go to the following link and complete the application form: To find this project in the application form, please filter ‘school of project applying to’ and select School of Chemistry, Food & Pharmacy

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