Background: COVID-19 has directly and indirectly caused high mortality worldwide.
Aim: To explore patterns of mortality during the COVID-19 pandemic and implications for palliative care, service planning and research.
Design: Descriptive analysis and population-based modelling of routine data.
Participants and setting: All deaths registered in England and Wales between 7 March and 15 May 2020. We described the following mortality categories by age, gender and place of death: (1) baseline deaths (deaths that would typically occur in a given period); (2) COVID-19 deaths and (3) additional deaths not directly attributed to COVID-19. We estimated the proportion of people who died from COVID-19 who might have been in their last year of life in the absence of the pandemic using simple modelling with explicit assumptions.
Results: During the first 10 weeks of the pandemic, there were 101,614 baseline deaths, 41,105 COVID-19 deaths and 14,520 additional deaths. Deaths in care homes increased by 220%, while home and hospital deaths increased by 77% and 90%, respectively. Hospice deaths fell by 20%. Additional deaths were among older people (86% aged >= 75 years), and most occurred in care homes (56%) and at home (43%). We estimate that 22% (13%–31%) of COVID-19 deaths occurred among people who might have been in their last year of life in the absence of the pandemic.
Conclusion: The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a surge in palliative care needs. Health and social care systems must ensure availability of palliative care to support people with severe COVID-19, particularly in care homes.
Background: Palliative Care Day Services (PCDS) offer supportive care to people with advanced, progressive illness who may be approaching the end of life. Despite the growth of PCDS in recent years, evidence of their costs and effects is scarce. It is important to establish the value of such services so that health and care decision-makers can make evidence-based resource allocation decisions. This study examines and estimates the costs and effects of PCDS with different service configurations in three centres across the UK in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Methods: People who had been referred to PCDS were recruited between June 2017 and September 2018. A pragmatic before-and-after descriptive cohort study design analysed data on costs and outcomes. Data on costs were collected on health and care use in the 4 weeks preceding PCDS attendance using adapted versions of the Client Service Receipt Inventory (CSRI). Outcomes, cost per attendee/day and volunteer contribution to PCDS were also estimated. Outcomes included quality of life (MQOL-E), health status (EQ-5D-5L) and capability wellbeing (ICECAP-SCM).
Results: Thirty-eight attendees were recruited and provided data at baseline and 4 weeks (centre 1: n = 8; centre 2: n = 8, centre 3: n = 22). The cost per attendee/day ranged from £121–£190 (excluding volunteer contribution) to £172–£264 (including volunteer contribution) across the three sites. Volunteering constituted between 28 and 38% of the total cost of PCDS provision. There was no significant mean change at 4 week follow-up from baseline for health and care costs (centre 1: £570, centre 2: -£1127, centre 3: £65), or outcomes: MQOL-E (centre 1: - 0.48, centre 2: 0.01, centre 3: 0.24); EQ-5D-5L (centre 1: 0.05, centre 2: 0.03, centre 3: - 0.03) and ICECAP-SCM (centre 1:0.00, centre 2: - 0.01, centre 3: 0.03). Centre costs variation is almost double per attendee when attendance rates are held constant in scenario analysis.
Conclusions: This study highlights the contribution made by volunteers to PCDS provision. There is insufficient evidence on whether outcomes improved, or costs were reduced, in the three different service configurations for PCDS. We suggest how future research may overcome some of the challenges we encountered, to better address questions of cost-effectiveness in PCDS.
OBJECTIVES: The issue of polypharmacy and medication use in people with life limiting illness raises important questions from a clinical and ethical viewpoint. The objectives of our study were to (1) explore medication use among people with life limiting illness receiving hospice care; (2) apply consensus criteria to assess medication appropriateness; and (3) determine the overall pill burden in this patient population.
METHODS: Six hospices in the North East of England were included. All deceased adult patients who received hospice care in 2018 were eligible for study inclusion. Descriptive statistics were used to report medication details; while medication appropriateness was assessed according to consensus criteria developed by Morin and colleagues.
RESULTS: Six hundred and ninety patients were included in the study. Patients were using a mean number of 8.8 medications per day, while polypharmacy was evident in 80% of patients. In terms of potentially questionable medication, patients were prescribed a mean number of 1.3 per day. Common potentially questionable medications included vitamin and mineral supplements, antihypertensives, antiplatelets, lipid regulating agents and anticoagulants. The pill burden in this population was also high with, on average, people using 13.7 oral doses per day.
CONCLUSIONS: Polypharmacy is common in patients accessing hospice care, as is the use of potentially questionable medication. The pill burden in this patient population is also high, which may be an additional treatment burden to patients. Holistic deprescribing approaches for this population should be developed and implemented.
Background: Since a national lockdown was introduced across the UK in March, 2020, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, cancer screening has been suspended, routine diagnostic work deferred, and only urgent symptomatic cases prioritised for diagnostic intervention. In this study, we estimated the impact of delays in diagnosis on cancer survival outcomes in four major tumour types.
Methods: In this national population-based modelling study, we used linked English National Health Service (NHS) cancer registration and hospital administrative datasets for patients aged 15–84 years, diagnosed with breast, colorectal, and oesophageal cancer between Jan 1, 2010, and Dec 31, 2010, with follow-up data until Dec 31, 2014, and diagnosed with lung cancer between Jan 1, 2012, and Dec 31, 2012, with follow-up data until Dec 31, 2015. We use a routes-to-diagnosis framework to estimate the impact of diagnostic delays over a 12-month period from the commencement of physical distancing measures, on March 16, 2020, up to 1, 3, and 5 years after diagnosis. To model the subsequent impact of diagnostic delays on survival, we reallocated patients who were on screening and routine referral pathways to urgent and emergency pathways that are associated with more advanced stage of disease at diagnosis. We considered three reallocation scenarios representing the best to worst case scenarios and reflect actual changes in the diagnostic pathway being seen in the NHS, as of March 16, 2020, and estimated the impact on net survival at 1, 3, and 5 years after diagnosis to calculate the additional deaths that can be attributed to cancer, and the total years of life lost (YLLs) compared with pre-pandemic data.
Findings: We collected data for 32 583 patients with breast cancer, 24 975 with colorectal cancer, 6744 with oesophageal cancer, and 29 305 with lung cancer. Across the three different scenarios, compared with pre-pandemic figures, we estimate a 7·9–9·6% increase in the number of deaths due to breast cancer up to year 5 after diagnosis, corresponding to between 281 (95% CI 266–295) and 344 (329–358) additional deaths. For colorectal cancer, we estimate 1445 (1392–1591) to 1563 (1534–1592) additional deaths, a 15·3–16·6% increase; for lung cancer, 1235 (1220–1254) to 1372 (1343–1401) additional deaths, a 4·8–5·3% increase; and for oesophageal cancer, 330 (324–335) to 342 (336–348) additional deaths, 5·8–6·0% increase up to 5 years after diagnosis. For these four tumour types, these data correspond with 3291–3621 additional deaths across the scenarios within 5 years. The total additional YLLs across these cancers is estimated to be 59 204–63 229 years.
Interpretation: Substantial increases in the number of avoidable cancer deaths in England are to be expected as a result of diagnostic delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic in the UK. Urgent policy interventions are necessary, particularly the need to manage the backlog within routine diagnostic services to mitigate the expected impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on patients with cancer.
OBJECTIVES: A vital component of the coronavirus response is care of the dying COVID-19 patient. We document the demographics, symptoms experienced, medications required, effectiveness observed, and challenges to high-quality holistic palliative care in 31 patients. This will aid colleagues in primary and secondary care settings anticipate common symptoms and formulate management plans.
METHODS: A retrospective survey was conducted of patients referred to the hospital palliative care service in a tertiary hospital, south east of England between March 21 and April 26, 2020. Patients included had a confirmed laboratory diagnosis of COVID-19 via reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction nasopharyngeal swab for SARS-Cov-2 or radiological evidence of COVID-19.
RESULTS: The thirty-one patients included were predominantly male (77%), elderly (median [interquartile range]: 84 [76-89]), and had multiple (4 [3-5]) comorbidities. Referral was made in the last 2 [1-3] days of life. Common symptoms were breathlessness (84%) and delirium (77%). Fifty-eight percent of patients received at least 1 "as required" dose of an opioid or midazolam in the 24 hours before death. Sixty percent of patients needed a continuous subcutaneous infusion and the median morphine dose was 10 mg S/C per 24 hours and midazolam 10 mg S/C per 24 hours. Nineteen percent of our cohort had a loved one or relative present when dying.
CONCLUSION: We provide additional data to the internationally reported pool examining death arising from infection with SARS-CoV-19. The majority of patients had symptoms controlled with low doses of morphine and midazolam, and death was rapid. The impact of low visitation during dying needs exploring.
Objectives: This study aims to identify factors among British community-based adults associated with advance care planning engagement. Factors are then compared among six domains of wishes: medical care, spiritual and religious needs, privacy and peace, dignified care, place of death and pain relief.
Methods: Cross-sectional data were analysed from a stratified random sample of adults across Great Britain (England, Scotland and Wales) who were interviewed on their attitudes towards death and dying. Weighted multivariable logistic regression tested for associations with expressing any end-of-life wishes and then for each separate domain.
Results: Analysis of 2042 respondents (response rate: 53.5%) revealed those less likely to have discussed their wishes were: male, younger, born in the UK, owned their residence, had no experience working in health or social care, had no chronic conditions or disabilities, had not experienced the death of a close person in the last 5 years and feel neither comfortable nor uncomfortable or uncomfortable talking about death. Additional factors among the six domains associated with having not discussed wishes include: having less and more formal education, no religious beliefs, lower household income and living with at least one other person.
Conclusions: This study is the first to be conducted among a sample of community-dwelling British adults and the first of its kind to compare domains of end-of-life wishes. Our findings provide an understanding of social determinants which can inform a public health approach to end-of-life care that promotes advance care planning among compassionate communities.
District nurses are core providers of palliative care, yet little is known about the way that they provide care to people at home. This study aimed to investigate the role and practice of the district nurse in palliative care provision. This was an ethnographic study, with non-participant observation of district nurse-palliative care patient encounters, and post-observation interviews. District nurse teams from three geographical areas in northwest England participated. Data were analysed iteratively, facilitated by the use of NVivo, using techniques of constant comparison. Some 17 encounters were observed, with 23 post-observation interviews (11 with district nurses, 12 with patients/carers). Core themes were ‘planning for the future’ and ‘caring in the moment’. District nurses described how they provided and planned future care, but observations showed that this care focused on physical symptom management. District nurses engaged in friendly relationship building, which allows detailed management of symptomatology, but with little evidence of advance care planning.
Background: Informal carers are essential in enabling discharge home from hospital at end of life and supporting palliative patients at home, but are often ill-prepared for the role. Carers’ support needs are rarely considered at discharge. If carers are less able to cope with home care, patient care may suffer and readmission may become more likely.
Aim: To investigate the implementation of an evidence-based Carer Support Needs Assessment Tool (CSNAT) intervention to support carers during hospital discharge at end of life.
Design: Longitudinal qualitative study with thematic analysis.
Setting/participants: One National Health Service Trust in England: 12 hospital practitioners, one hospital administrator and four community practitioners. We provided training in CSNAT intervention use and implementation. Practitioners delivered the intervention for 6 months. Data collection was conducted in three phases: (1) pre-implementation interviews exploring understandings, anticipated benefits and challenges of the intervention; (2) observations of team meetings and review of intervention procedures and (3) follow-up interviews exploring experiences of working with the intervention.
Results: Despite efforts from practitioners, implementation was challenging. Three main themes captured facilitators and barriers to implementation: (1) structure and focus within carer support; (2) the ‘right’ people to implement the intervention and (3) practical implementation challenges.
Conclusions: Structure and focus may facilitate implementation, but the dominance of outcomes measurement and performance metrics in health systems may powerfully frame perceptions of the intervention and implementation decisions. There is uncertainty over who is best-placed or responsible for supporting carers around hospital discharge, and challenges in connecting with carers prior to discharge.
In 2017 and 2018, the English courts were asked to decide whether continued life-sustaining treatment was in the best interests of three infants: Charlie Gard, Alfie Evans and Isaiah Haastrup. Each infant had sustained catastrophic, irrecoverable brain damage. Dignity played an important role in the best interests assessments reached by the Family division of the High Court in each case. Multiple conceptions of dignity circulate, with potentially conflicting implications for infants such as Charlie, Alfie and Isaiah. The judgements do not explicate the conceptions of dignity upon which they rely. This article reconstructs the conceptions of dignity invoked in these judgements, finding that a broadly Kantian, agential conception dominates, under which human dignity requires the prospect of agency. This conception is situated within the broader body of thought on dignity, and the potentially adverse implications of applying the reconstructed conception in best interests assessments for infants with severely restricted consciousness are discussed.
Introduction: The End of Life Care in Advanced Kidney Disease Framework suggests that renal units should create a renal supportive care register (RSCR) to promote consistent communication with patients and to encourage advance care planning. The aim of the RSCR at Birmingham Heartlands Hospital is to identify patients who are requiring dialysis with a prognosis of less than 12 months. This work aims to explore whether patients were identified appropriately on the RSCR, and if conversations around withdrawal of dialysis and end of life took place.
Methods: We reviewed the inpatient and outpatient consultations of patients who died while listed on the RSCR between 1 January 2016 and 31 December 2018. We recorded the dates when patients were added to the RSCR and when they died. We reviewed conversations around dialysis withdrawal and events at the end of life.
Results and discussion: Data from Proton, the renal team’s coding system, showed that there were 80 deaths of patients listed on the RSCR: 59% were male, 41% were female. The median age at death was 77.5 years (interquartile range (IQR) 12.25 years). Thirty-eight per cent of these patients had an alert on Concerto, the hospital’s main electronic system, informing users that the patient was on the RSCR.
Eighty-eight per cent of patients were listed on the RSCR within 12 months of death; 69% of these were listed on the day they died. For the remaining patients who were listed on the register, Fig 1 illustrates that the median time to death from being placed on the register was 1.75 months (IQR 7.54 months).
Thirty-eight per cent of patients were offered a conversation on withdrawal of dialysis; 70% of these then opted to withdraw. Cited reasons for continuing dialysis after these conversations were families’ refusal to accept palliation and denial. Of those who did not have dialysis formally withdrawn prior to death, there were reports of dialysis being withheld due to low blood pressure and patients being too unwell to come in from home for dialysis.
Eighty-seven per cent had valid ‘do not attempt cardiopulmonary resuscitation’ (DNACPR) forms. Two patients who did not have DNACPR forms received CPR (without return of spontaneous circulation) on the day of their death in hospital. Preferred place of death (PPD) was established in 20% of patients (Fig 2). While the majority of patients asked chose their PPD as home, 65% of patients on the RSCR died in hospital.
We recommend that all patients on the RSCR should have alerts placed on Concerto. This would ensure that the wider hospital, who may not know the patient as well as the renal team, are prompted to think about advance care planning. The literature reinforces that alerts can improve healthcare professionals’ engagement with conversations around resuscitation.2
Conclusion: Our data suggests that the deterioration of these patients may have been unrecognised. While some deaths are likely to be unexpected, we are missing opportunities to engage patients with end-stage renal disease in advance care planning.
Opponents of physician-assisted dying (PAD) view it as modern eugenics and a significant risk to people with disabilities. The involuntary surgical sterilisation (ISS) of girls and young women with intellectual disabilities is an example of eugenics in practice. This article reviews the social and political attitudes toward ISS and PAD in New Zealand, England, and the United States. The attitudes were compared to determine if they demonstrated any indicators of potential PAD-related harm for people with intellectual disabilities. The research identified several issues, which need to be considered to ensure the safety of people with intellectual disabilities if New Zealand was to legalise PAD.
BACKGROUND: The management of medicines towards the end of life can place increasing burdens and responsibilities on patients and families. This has received little attention yet it can be a source of great difficulty and distress patients and families. Dose administration aids can be useful for some patients but there is no evidence for their wide spread use or the implications for their use as patients become increasing unwell. The study aimed to explore how healthcare professionals describe the support they provide for patients to manage medications at home at end of life.
METHODS: Qualitative interview study with thematic analysis. Participants were a purposive sample of 40 community healthcare professionals (including GPs, pharmacists, and specialist palliative care and community nurses) from across two English counties.
RESULTS: Healthcare professionals reported a variety of ways in which they tried to support patients to take medications as prescribed. While the paper presents some solutions and strategies reported by professional respondents it was clear from both professional and patient/family caregiver accounts in the wider study that rather few professionals provided this kind of support. Standard solutions offered included: rationalising the number of medications; providing different formulations; explaining what medications were for and how best to take them. Dose administration aids were also regularly provided, and while useful for some, they posed a number of practical difficulties for palliative care. More challenging circumstances such as substance misuse and memory loss required more innovative strategies such as supporting ways to record medication taking; balancing restricted access to controlled drugs and appropriate pain management and supporting patient choice in medication use.
CONCLUSIONS: The burdens and responsibilities of managing medicines at home for patients approaching the end of life has not been widely recognised or understood. This paper considers some of the strategies reported by professionals in the study, and points to the great potential for a more widely proactive stance in supporting patients and family carers to understand and take their medicines effectively. By adopting tailored, and sometimes, 'outside the box' thinking professionals can identify immediate, simple solutions to the problems patients and families experience with managing medicines.
OBJECTIVES: to establish the accuracy of community nurses' predictions of mortality among older people with multiple long-term conditions, to compare these with a mortality rating index and to assess the incremental value of nurses' predictions to the prognostic tool.
DESIGN: a prospective cohort study using questionnaires to gather clinical information about patients case managed by community nurses. Nurses estimated likelihood of mortality for each patient on a 5-point rating scale. The dataset was randomly split into derivation and validation cohorts. Cox proportional hazard models were used to estimate risk equations for the Revised Minimum Dataset Mortality Risk Index (MMRI-R) and nurses' predictions of mortality individually and combined. Measures of discrimination and calibration were calculated and compared within the validation cohort.
SETTING: two NHS Trusts in England providing case-management services by nurses for frail older people with multiple long-term conditions.
PARTICIPANTS: 867 patients on the caseload of 35 case-management nurses. 433 and 434 patients were assigned to the derivation and validation cohorts, respectively. Patients were followed up for 12 months.
RESULTS: 249 patients died (28.72%). In the validation cohort, MMRI-R demonstrated good discrimination (Harrell's c-index 0.71) and nurses' predictions similar discrimination (Harrell's c-index 0.70). There was no evidence of superiority in performance of either method individually (P = 0.83) but the MMRI-R and nurses' predictions together were superior to nurses' predictions alone (P = 0.01).
CONCLUSIONS: patient mortality is associated with higher MMRI-R scores and nurses' predictions of 12-month mortality. The MMRI-R enhanced nurses' predictions and may improve nurses' confidence in initiating anticipatory care interventions.
Accompanied suicide is a controversial topic with varying practice across Europe; therefore, there is very little guidance on how healthcare professionals should be educated on accompanied suicide. This study implemented an anonymous, cross-sectional online survey to discover the perceptions of final-year MPharm students on accompanied suicide and the factors affecting one’s views, with the aim of investigating the knowledge, awareness and opinions of pharmacy students regarding accompanied suicide, as well as education to pharmacy students. Surveys were disseminated to final-year pharmacy students at Kingston University between January and March 2019. The survey comprised of three sections: Section A consisting of definitions – to determine knowledge of pharmacy students. Section B including case studies – to understand the opinions of pharmacy students and identify influential patient factors. Section C involving demographics – to discover the influential participant factors. An ethics application was submitted and approved prior to conducting this study. The data yielded a total of 111 responses out of a possible 139 (80% response rate); 77.5% participants were unable to correctly define each term given, with many also agreeing their lack of knowledge affected their views. Overall, most pharmacy students disagreed with accompanied suicide, regardless of the patient factors. Additionally, religious participants were more likely to disagree with the patient request (p < 0.03). Three recommendations were concluded to improve the education of pharmacy students: (1) an approved medical organisation to specifically define terminology, (2) include accompanied suicide in the pharmacy syllabus and (3) include lesser known terminal illnesses on the pharmacy syllabus.
Background: Frailty is characterised by increased vulnerability to falls, disability, hospitalisation and care home admission. However, it is relatively reversible in the early stages. Older people living with frailty often have multiple health and social issues which are difficult to address but could benefit from proactive, person-centred care. Personalised care planning aims to improve outcomes through better self-management, care coordination and access to community resources.
Methods: This feasibility cluster randomised controlled trial aims to recruit 400 participants from 11 general practice clusters across Bradford and Leeds in the north of England. Eligible patients will be aged over 65 with an electronic frailty index score of 0.21 (identified via their electronic health record), living in their own homes, without severe cognitive impairment and not in receipt of end of life care. After screening for eligible patients, a restricted 1:1 cluster-level randomisation will be used to allocate practices to the PROSPER intervention, which will be delivered over 12 weeks by a personal independence co-ordinator worker, or usual care. Following initial consent, participants will complete a baseline questionnaire in their own home including measures of health-related quality of life, activities of daily living, depression and health and social care resource use. Follow-up will be at six and 12 months. Feasibility outcomes relate to progression criteria based around recruitment, intervention delivery, retention and follow-up. An embedded process evaluation will contribute to iterative intervention optimisation and logic model development by examining staff training, intervention implementation and contextual factors influencing delivery and uptake of the intervention.
Discussion: Whilst personalised care planning can improve outcomes in long-term conditions, implementation in routine settings is poor. We will evaluate the feasibility of conducting a cluster randomised controlled trial of personalised care planning in a community population based on frailty status. Key objectives will be to test fidelity of trial design, gather data to refine sample size calculation for the planned definitive trial, optimise data collection processes and optimise the intervention including training and delivery.
Although much focus has been on assessing the severity of COVID-19, general practitioners and other community based clinicians also need a working knowledge of symptom management. Symptoms of cough, fever, and breathlessness can be highly distressing even in those who do not have severe disease. Also, treatments for symptoms in severe COVID-19 will be needed for patients whose advance care plan or advance decision to refuse treatment includes a decision not to escalate treatment beyond home based care.
This article summarises key points from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) COVID-19 rapid guideline on managing symptoms (including at the end of life) in the community. The guideline is part of a series of rapid guidelines on COVID-19, developed in collaboration with NHS England and NHS Improvement using interim process and methods. Recommendations are based on evidence and expert opinion, and have been verified as far as possible by NICE.
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The COVID-19 pandemic poses numerous – and substantial – ethical challenges to health and healthcare. Debate continues about whether there is adequate protective equipment, testing and monitoring, and about when a vaccine might become available and social restrictions might be lifted. The thorny dilemmas posed by triage and resource allocation also attract considerable attention, particularly access to intensive care resources, should demand outstrip supply.
But the “COVID fog” clouds more than the intensive care unit. The provision and uptake of non-COVID related treatment is declining, due to the de-prioritisation of some services and interventions, alongside non-COVID patients’ fears of contracting the virus; difficult conversations are being held in suboptimal circumstances; and final farewells and death rituals have been disrupted. Healthcare personnel, meanwhile, are facing moral distress and, for some, difficulties arising from undertaking new roles in unfamiliar settings.
Objectives: To map current practice regarding discussions around resuscitation across England and Scotland in patients with cancer admitted acutely to hospital and to demonstrate the value of medical students in rapidly collecting national audit data.
Methods: Collaborators from the Macmillan medical student network collected data from 251 patient encounters across eight hospitals in England and Scotland. Data were collected to identify whether discussion regarding resuscitation was documented as having taken place during inpatient admission to acute oncology. As an audit standard, it was expected that all patients should be invited to discuss resuscitation within 24 hr of admission.
Results: Resuscitation discussions were had in 43.1% of admissions and of these 64.0% were within 24 hr; 27.6% of all admissions. 6.5% of patients had a “do not attempt resuscitation” order prior to admission with a difference noted between patients receiving palliative and curative treatment (8.5% and 0.39%, respectively, p < .05). Discussions regarding escalation of care took place in only 29.3% of admissions.
Conclusions: These data highlight deficiencies in the number of discussions regarding resuscitation that are being conducted with cancer patients that become acutely unwell. It also demonstrates the value of medical student collaboration in rapidly collecting national audit data.
Introduction: Electronic palliative care coordination systems (EPaCCS) aim to support people approaching the end of life (EOL) to receive consistent care, according to their wishes, that is coordinated effectively across multiple care sectors. They are in use across the UK although empirical evidence into their effectiveness is poor. This paper presents a protocol of a mixed-methods study, to understand how, and by whom, EPaCCS are being used and whether EPaCCS are enabling Healthcare Professionals (HCPs) to coordinate patients’ EOL care.
Methods and analysis: This is a mixed-methods study, carried out within a realist paradigm, to evaluate the impact of an EPaCCS on EOL care as provided by a Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) in England. This study has two aims: (1) Describe the socio-demographic characteristics of patients who die with an EPaCCS record, their underlying cause of death and place of death and compare these with patients who die without an EPaCCS record. (2) Explore the impact of an EPaCCS on the experience of receiving EOL care for patients and their carers, and understand HCPs’ views and experiences of utilising an EPaCCS to coordinate care for their patients. The study will be conducted in five phases: (1) development of the initial programme theory; (2) focus group with CCG stakeholder board; (3) individual interviews with HCPs, patients, current and bereaved carers; (4) retrospective cohort study of routinely collected data on EPaCCS usage and (5) data analysis and synthesis of study findings.
Ethics and dissemination: The study has been approved by National Health Service South West–Frenchay Research Ethics Committee (REC reference number: 18/SW/0198). Findings will be published in a wide range of outputs targeted at key audiences.
Background/objectives: Opioids relieve symptoms in terminal care. We studied opioid underuse in long-term care facilities, defined as residents without opioid prescription despite pain and/or dyspnoea, 3 days prior to death.
Design and setting: In a proportionally stratified randomly selected sample of long-term care facilities in six European Union countries, nurses and long-term care facility management completed structured after-death questionnaires within 3 months of residents’ death.
Measurements: Nurses assessed pain/dyspnoea with Comfort Assessment in Dying with Dementia scale and checked opioid prescription by chart review. We estimated opioid underuse per country and per symptom and calculated associations of opioid underuse by multilevel, multivariable analysis.
Results: nurses’ response rate was 81.6%, 95.7% for managers. Of 901 deceased residents with pain/dyspnoea reported in the last week, 10.6% had dyspnoea, 34.4% had pain and 55.0% had both symptoms. Opioid underuse per country was 19.2% (95% confidence interval: 12.9–27.2) in the Netherlands, 25.2% (18.3–33.6) in Belgium, 29.3% (16.9–45.8) in England, 33.7% (26.2–42.2) in Finland, 64.6% (52.0–75.4) in Italy and 79.1% (71.2–85.3) in Poland (p < 0.001). Opioid underuse was 57.2% (33.0–78.4) for dyspnoea, 41.2% (95% confidence interval: 21.9–63.8) for pain and 37.4% (19.4–59.6) for both symptoms (p = 0.013). Odds of opioid underuse were lower (odds ratio: 0.33; 95% confidence interval: 0.20–0.54) when pain was assessed.
Conclusion: Opioid underuse differs between countries. Pain and dyspnoea should be formally assessed at the end-of-life and taken into account in physicians orders.