A systematic review of palliative care tools and interventions for people with severe mental illness

Karin den Boer, Anke J. E. de Veer, Linda J. Schoonmade, Kim J. Verhaegh, Berno van Meijel, Anneke L. Francke

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleAcademicpeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Increasing attention to palliative care for the general population has led to the development of various evidence-based or consensus-based tools and interventions. However, specific tools and interventions are needed for people with severe mental illness (SMI) who have a life-threatening illness. The aim of this systematic review is to summarize the scientific evidence on tools and interventions in palliative care for this group. Methods: Systematic searches were done in the PubMed, Cochrane Library, CINAHL, PsycINFO and Embase databases, supplemented by reference tracking, searches on the internet with free text terms, and consultations with experts to identify relevant literature. Empirical studies with qualitative, quantitative or mixed-methods designs concerning tools and interventions for use in palliative care for people with SMI were included. Methodological quality was assessed using a critical appraisal instrument for heterogeneous study designs. Stepwise study selection and the assessment of methodological quality were done independently by two review authors. Results: Four studies were included, reporting on a total of two tools and one multi-component intervention. One study concerned a tool to identify the palliative phase in patients with SMI. This tool appeared to be usable only in people with SMI with a cancer diagnosis. Furthermore, two related studies focused on a tool to involve people with SMI in discussions about medical decisions at the end of life. This tool was assessed as feasible and usable in the target group. One other study concerned the Dutch national Care Standard for palliative care, including a multi-component intervention. The Palliative Care Standard also appeared to be feasible and usable in a mental healthcare setting, but required further tailoring to suit this specific setting. None of the included studies investigated the effects of the tools and interventions on quality of life or quality of care. Conclusions: Studies of palliative care tools and interventions for people with SMI are scarce. The existent tools and intervention need further development and should be tailored to the care needs and settings of these people. Further research is needed on the feasibility, usability and effects of tools and interventions for palliative care for people with SMI.
Original languageEnglish
Article number106
JournalBMC psychiatry
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 3 Apr 2019


  • Mental healthcare
  • Palliative care
  • Review
  • Severe mental illness

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