Considerations required before implementing Patient Group Directions (PGDs) in End of Life Care.


As with any other patient pathway clinicians should be mindful that NICE guidance on PGDs states:

‘Provide the majority of clinical care involving supplying and/or administering medicines on an individual, patient-specific basis. Reserve patient group directions (PGDs) for limited situations in which this offers an advantage for patient care, without compromising patient safety, and where there are clear governance arrangements and accountability.’

Organisations are responsible for ensuring that any PGD they develop is not only legal and clinically appropriate in the care pathway but not used to overcome inefficiencies within systems.


End of Life Care (EoLC) specialist clinicians and GPs will be involved in an individual’s EoLC and so able to prescribe on an individual, patient specific basis.

As a result the potential need for PGDs in EoLC is likely to be very limited, if at all, and there are several legislative restrictions which organisations must be mindful of if considering PGD use.

Syringe drivers/mixing of medicines

PGDs cannot be used for syringe drivers where more than one medication is being given as mixing of medications under a PGD is not permissible: the mixing of medications results in a unlicensed product and PGDs cannot be used to administer or supply unlicensed products (also see unlicensed/off-label medicines below).

For further detail see Mixing of medicines and Patient Group Directions.


Parenteral medications supplied under a PGD can only be self-administered or administered by the healthcare professional who has made the supply under the PGD – this administration cannot be delegated to a carer or another healthcare professional. This restricts who can administer a parenteral medication supplied under a PGD.

NICE MPG2 states:

1.5.3 When practising under a PGD, health professionals should: not delegate their responsibility.

For further detail see Delegation of roles under a PGD.

Controlled drugs

There are restrictions on the use of controlled drugs under PGDs. The use of morphine/diamorphine is restricted to registered nurses and pharmacists for the immediate necessary treatment of a sick or injured person.

NICE MPG2 states:

1.1.9 Ensure that a controlled drug is included in a PGD only when legally permitted and clearly justified by best clinical practice.

For further detail see Supply and/or administration of Controlled Drugs under a PGD.

Dose ranges

Dose ranges are permissible within a PGD only where there is clear clinical criteria for selecting a dose within the range specified. The decision on the dose to be administered or supplied must be made by the healthcare professional working under the PGD at the time of the administration/supply based on the relevant criteria or guidance.

NICE MPG2 states:

1.1.12 Do not make dose adjustments to a medicine supplied under a PGD when the medicine is already in the patient’s possession.

For further detail see Using a Patient Group Direction to adjust doses of medicines.

Unlicensed/off-label medicines

Unlicensed medicines cannot be supplied or administered under a PGD.

Off label medicines should only be used when supported by best clinical practice.

NICE MPG2 states:

1.1.6 PGDs must only include medicines with a UK marketing authorisation, in line with the Human Medicines Regulations 2012.

1.1.7 Ensure that off-label use of a licensed medicine is included in a PGD only when clearly justified by best clinical practice. Clearly state that the medicine is being used outside the terms of the marketing authorisation on the PGD.

For further detail see Off label medicine use under a Patient Group Direction and Unlicensed medicines and use of PGDs.

Care home staff operating under PGDs

PGDs cannot be used by care home staff. However they may be used by registered healthcare professionals from an external provider who is able to operate under PGDs (e.g. NHS Community Services provider) caring for a patient within a care home to administer or supply medications (on-going administration of non-parenteral medicines supplied under a PGD may be undertaken by trained care home staff under local standard operating procedures (SOPs)).

For further detail see .


Any medicine supplied under a PGD needs to be appropriately labelled.

NICE MPG2 states:

1.5.4 When supplying a medicine(s), provide an appropriately labelled pack. Health professionals (other than pharmacists or dispensing doctors) should not split packs.

For further detail see Labelling requirements for medicines supplied under a PGD.

Video explainer

This PGD explainer discusses why the use of PGDs for the supply and/or administration of medicines in end-of-life care is often not appropriate.

Update history

  1. Video explainer added
  1. Minor formatting and broken link updates
  1. Minor wording addition under dose ranges section
  1. Page reformatted
  1. Published

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