Article Text

Download PDFPDF
23 Findings from a pilot and feasibility trial of a music therapy intervention in specialist palliative care
  1. Lisa Graham-Wisener1,
  2. Joanne Reid2,
  3. Tracy McConnell2,
  4. Kerry McGrillen1,
  5. Jenny Kirkwood3,
  6. Miriam McKeown1,
  7. Mike Clarke1,
  8. Joan Regan1,
  9. Naomi Hughes3 and
  10. Sam Porter4
  1. 1Marie Curie Hospice Belfast, UK
  2. 2Queen’s University Belfast, UK
  3. 3Everyday Harmony, UK
  4. 4Bournemouth University, UK


Introduction 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).

Aims 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.

Methods 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.

Results 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.

Conclusion 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.


  1. . Graham-Wisener L, Watts G, Kirkwood J, Harrison C, McEwan J, Porter S, Reid J, McConnell TH. Music therapy in UK palliative and end-of-life care: A service evaluation. BMJ supportive & palliative care2018.

  2. . McConnell T, Scott D, Porter S. Music therapy for end-of-life care: An updated systematic review. Palliative Medicine2016;30(9):877–883.

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.