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Multidisciplinary team meetings in palliative care: an ethnographic study
  1. Erica Borgstrom1,
  2. Simon Cohn2,
  3. Annelieke Driessen2,
  4. Jonathan Martin3,4 and
  5. Sarah Yardley3,5
  1. 1School of Health, Wellbeing and Social Care, The Open University, Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, UK
  2. 2Department of Health Services Research and Policy, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, London, UK
  3. 3Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust, London, UK
  4. 4University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, London, London, UK
  5. 5Marie Curie Palliative Care Research Department, University College London, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Erica Borgstrom, School of Health, Wellbeing and Social Care, The Open University, Milton Keynes MK7 6AA, Buckinghamshire, UK; erica.borgstrom{at}


Objectives Multidisciplinary team meetings are a regular feature in the provision of palliative care, involving a range of professionals. Yet, their purpose and best format are not necessarily well understood or documented. This article describes how hospital and community-based palliative care multidisciplinary team meetings operate to elucidate some of their main values and offer an opportunity to share examples of good practice.

Methods Ethnographic observations of over 70 multidisciplinary team meetings between May 2018 and January 2020 in hospital and community palliative care settings in intercity London. These observations were part of a larger study examining palliative care processes. Fieldnotes were thematically analysed.

Results This article analyses how the meetings operated in terms of their setup, participants and general order of business. Meetings provided a space where patients, families and professionals could be cared for through regular discussions of service provision.

Conclusions Meetings served a variety of functions. Alongside discussing the more technical, clinical and practical aspects that are formally recognised aspects of the meetings, an additional core value was enabling affectual aspects of dealing with people who are dying to be acknowledged and processed collectively. Insight into how the meetings are structured and operate offer input for future practice.

  • hospital care
  • end of life care
  • education and training
  • communication
  • clinical decisions

This is an open access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 Unported (CC BY 4.0) license, which permits others to copy, redistribute, remix, transform and build upon this work for any purpose, provided the original work is properly cited, a link to the licence is given, and indication of whether changes were made. See:

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  • Contributors All of the authors meet the criteria set out by the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors Recommendations for the Conduct, Reporting, Editing and Publication of Scholarly Work in Medical Journals.

  • Funding This study was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ES/P002781/1).

  • Competing interests In terms of competing interests, the research team (EB, SC and AD) received funding from the UKRI-ESRC (ES/P002781/1). SY and JM are both employed by the clinical sites and provide leadership within the sites, which were involved in the study; they were not financially remunerated as part of the research project.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.