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.
In the current ecology of care, social, rather than medical, support is critical in enabling frail older people to live at home. This paper reports findings from a qualitative study about how home care workers (HCWs) support persons with dementia living in the community. Semi-structured qualitative interviews were carried out in England with 14 family care-givers (FCGs) recruited from a single private home care provider. A thematic analysis of the data was undertaken using the constant comparative method. In every instance, it was FCGs who initiated domiciliary care for the person with dementia, highlighting ambiguity about who is the ‘client’. Rather than focusing on the HCWs’ work in undertaking practical tasks and personal care, respondents prioritised HCWs as companions, providing emotional and social support for their relatives. From an organisational perspective, respondents valued the capacity of the provider to deliver a consistent, personal, reliable and punctual service. These attributes were important in supporting their relative's agency and dignity. Respondents described HCWs engaging in skilled and sensitive communication with clients but considered ‘character’ and ‘innate’ caring abilities to be more important than those derived from training. The results highlight the need to acknowledge the family, rather than the individual client, as the functioning unit of care, and to recognise the highly skilled communicative and emotional work undertaken by HCWs.
Objectives: We aimed to investigate the occurrence rates of clinical events and their associations with comfort in dying nursing home residents with and without dementia.
Methods: Epidemiological after-death survey was performed in nationwide representative samples of 322 nursing homes in Belgium, Finland, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, and England. Nursing staff reported clinical events and assessed comfort. The nursing staff or physician assessed the presence of dementia; severity was determined using two highly discriminatory staff-reported instruments.
Results: The sample comprised 401 residents with advanced dementia, 377 with other stages of dementia, and 419 without dementia (N = 1197). Across the three groups, pneumonia occurred in 24 to 27% of residents. Febrile episodes (unrelated to pneumonia) occurred in 39% of residents with advanced dementia, 34% in residents with other stages of dementia and 28% in residents without dementia (P = .03). Intake problems occurred in 74% of residents with advanced dementia, 55% in residents with other stages of dementia, and 48% in residents without dementia (P < .001). Overall, these three clinical events were inversely associated with comfort. Less comfort was observed in all resident groups who had pneumonia (advanced dementia, P = .04; other stages of dementia, P = .04; without dementia, P < .001). Among residents with intake problems, less comfort was observed only in those with other stages of dementia (P < .001) and without dementia (P = .003), while the presence and severity of dementia moderated this association (P = .03). Developing “other clinical events” was not associated with comfort.
Conclusions: Discomfort was observed in dying residents who developed major clinical events, especially pneumonia, which was not specific to advanced dementia. It is crucial to identify and address the clinical events potentially associated with discomfort in dying residents with and without dementia.
OBJECTIVES: The 2014 Court of Appeals decision with respect to Tracey vs Cambridge University Hospital ('the Tracey judgement') changed the requirements for discussing Do Not Attempt Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (DNACPR) decisions with patients. This study is a retrospective case note review aiming to identify any changes in practice around discussing DNACPR decisions in hospices following the judgement.
METHODS: 150 case notes from 2013 (before the Tracey judgement) were compared with 150 case notes from 2015 (following the Tracey judgement). These notes came from five hospices in the West Midlands. The notes were analysed to determine if the judgement resulted in changes to how frequently DNACPR decisions were discussed with patients and their families, as well as whether there were any changes in the documentation of reasons for not discussing such decisions.
RESULTS: Discussions with patients around DNACPR decisions increased from 31% to 60% and with relatives from 29% to 59% following the Tracey judgement. Prior to the judgement the most frequently documented reason for not discussing was to avoid distress (23%), whereas after judgement it was patients lacking capacity to engage in such a discussion (40%). There was a lack of consistency and clarity in defining the concept of 'physical or psychological harm'.
CONCLUSIONS: Although DNACPR decisions are being discussed more frequently with patients and families following the Tracey judgement, clarity on what constitutes 'physical or psychological harm' caused by these discussions is still required. Future research must examine whether the judgement is delaying or preventing DNACPR decisions being made.
Advance care planning is an opportunity for patients to express their priorities for future care. NHS England has outlined a commitment to end-of-life care, advocating a shift towards more patient-centred care. The NHS is encouraging the workforce to engage patients in conversations about what is important to them, shifting the focus from 'what is wrong with you' to 'what matters to you'. Traditionally, this was seen as the doctor's role but this conversation can and should happen with the wider skilled medical workforce. The key to advance care planning is to have these conversations early on when patients have the capacity to discuss their preferences for care. Advance care planning can occur in any setting where the patient is comfortable to have the conversation, be that at home, in the GP surgery, in hospital or another setting. Patients with advance care plans are more likely to have their wishes respected, have fewer unwanted interventions, experience reduced transitions between care settings and are more likely to die in their preferred place of death. Healthcare professionals have a duty to offer advance care planning to patients nearing the last phase of life so that care can be delivered to honour individual needs at the end of life.
Objectives: To gain preliminary data regarding the prevalence of proximal deep vein thrombosis (DVT) in those with non-malignant conditions admitted to specialist palliative care units (SPCUs).
Methods: Data were collected as part of a prospective longitudinal observational study in five SPCUs in England, Wales and Northern Ireland (Registration: ISRCTN97567719) to estimate the prevalence of proximal femoral vein DVT in people admitted to SPCUs. The primary outcome for this exploratory substudy was the prevalence of DVT in patients with non-malignant palliative conditions. Consecutive consenting adults underwent bilateral femoral vein ultrasonography within 48 hours of admission. Data were collected on symptoms associated with venous thromboembolism. Patients were ineligible if the estimated prognosis was <5 days. Cross-sectional descriptive analysis was conducted on baseline data and prevalence estimates presented with 95% CIs.
Results: 1390 patients were screened, 28 patients had non-malignant disease and all were recruited. The mean age 68·8 (SD 12·0), range 43–86 years; men 61%; survival mean 86 (SD 108.5) range 1–345 days. No patient had a history of venous thromboembolism. Four (14%) were receiving thromboprophylaxis. Of 22 evaluable scans, 8 (36%, 95% CI: 17% to 59%) showed femoral vein DVT. The level of reported relevant symptoms (leg oedema, leg pain, chest pain and breathlessness) was high irrespective of the presence of DVT.
Conclusions: Our exploratory data indicate one in three people admitted to an SPCU with non-malignant disease had a femoral vein DVT. Although definitive conclusions cannot be drawn, these data justify a larger prospective survey.
Background: Care costs rise towards the end of life. International comparison of service use, costs and care experiences can inform quality and improve access.
Aim: The aim of this study was to compare health and social care costs, quality and their drivers in the last 3 months of life for older adults across countries. Null hypothesis: no difference between countries.
Design: Mortality follow-back survey. Costs were calculated from carers’ reported service use and unit costs.
Setting: Palliative care services in England (London), Ireland (Dublin) and the United States (New York, San Francisco).
Participants: Informal carers of decedents who had received palliative care participated in the study.
Results: A total of 767 questionnaires were returned: 245 in England, 282 in Ireland and 240 in the United States. Mean care costs per person with cancer/non-cancer were US$37,250/US$37,376 (the United States), US$29,065/US$29,411 (Ireland), US$15,347/US$16,631 (England) and differed significantly (F = 25.79/14.27, p < 0.000). Cost distributions differed and were most homogeneous in England. In all countries, hospital care accounted for > 80% of total care costs; community care 6%–16%, palliative care 1%–15%; 10% of decedents used ~30% of total care costs. Being a high-cost user was associated with older age (>80 years), facing financial difficulties and poor experiences of home care, but not with having cancer or multimorbidity. Palliative care services consistently had the highest satisfaction.
Conclusion: Poverty and poor home care drove high costs, suggesting that improving community palliative care may improve care value, especially as palliative care expenditure was low. Major diagnostic variables were not cost drivers. Care costs in the United States were high and highly variable, suggesting that high-cost low-value care may be prevalent.
INTRODUCTION: The End-of-Life Namaste Care Program for People with Dementia, challenges the misconception that people with dementia are a 'shell'; it provides a holistic approach using the five senses, which can provide positive ways of communicating and emotional responses. It is proposed Namaste Care can improve communication and the relationships families and friends have with the person with dementia. Previously used in care homes, this study is the first to explore the pioneering use of Namaste Care in people's own homes.
OBJECTIVE: To develop initial programme theories detailing if, how and under which circumstances Namaste Care works when implemented at home.
DESIGN: A qualitative realist approach following the RAMESES II guidelines was employed to understand not only whether Namaste Care has positive outcomes, but also how these are generated, for whom they happen and in which circumstances.
SETTING: A hospice in the North East of England, operating in the community, through volunteers.
PARTICIPANTS: Programme theories were developed from three focus groups with volunteers implementing Namaste Care (n=8; n=8; n=11) and eight interviews with family carers (n=8).
RESULTS: Four refined explanatory theories are presented: increasing engagement, respite for family carers, importance of matched volunteers and increasing social interaction. It was identified that while Namaste Care achieved some of the same goals in the home setting as it does in the care home setting, it could also function in a different way that promoted socialisation.
CONCLUSIONS: Namaste Care provides holistic and personalised care to people with both moderate and advanced dementia, improving engagement and reducing social isolation. In the present study carers often chose to use Namaste Care sessions as respite. This was often linked to their frustration of the unavoidable dominance of task-focussed care in daily life. Individualised Namaste Care activities thus led to positive outcomes for both those with dementia and their carers.
OBJECTIVES: To explore current practice and the role of UK care homes and Admiral Nurses in helping people living with dementia and their family carers prepare for end-of-life.
METHODS: We conducted an online survey with all UK Admiral Nurses (59% response rate) and a random sample of Gold Standards Framework accredited care homes in England and Wales (38% response rate). We used descriptive statistics to report survey findings.
RESULTS: While respondents commonly discussed the progressive nature of dementia with people living with dementia and family carers, they less frequently spoke to people with dementia or carers about the nature of dementia as life shortening, terminal or a disease you can die from. Admiral Nurses highlighted that where service models reduced continuity of care, opportunities for ongoing discussion and developing relationships that supported these discussions were reduced. Admiral Nurses and care homes raised concerns about conversations being left too late, when the person with dementia no longer had capacity to engage. There was a high level of agreement with all European Association of Palliative Care and NICE statements presented regarding end-of-life care planning and discussions.
CONCLUSIONS: Our survey of care homes and Admiral Nurses, combined with findings from our previous survey of UK memory services increases our understanding of how services help people with dementia and family carers prepare for end-of-life. We found fragmentation across the service system, lack of continuity and tensions regarding when these conversations should be initiated and by whom.
Background: Limited access to, understanding of, and trust in paper-based patient information is a key factor influencing paramedic decisions to transfer patients nearing end-of-life to hospital. Practical solutions to this problem are rarely examined in research. This paper explores the extent to which access to, and quality of, patient information affects the care paramedics provide to patients nearing end-of-life, and their views on a shared electronic record as a means of accessing up-to-date patient information.
Method: Semi-structured interviews with paramedics (n = 10) based in the north of England, drawn from a group of health and social care professionals (n = 61) participating in a study exploring data recording and sharing practices in end-of-life care. Data were analysed using thematic analysis.
Results: Two key themes were identified regarding paramedic views of patient information: 1) access to information on patients nearing end-of-life, and 2) views on the proposed EPaCCS. Paramedics reported they are typically unable to access up-to-date patient information, particularly advance care planning documents, and consequently often feel they have little option but to actively treat and transport patients to hospital – a decision not always appropriate for, or desired by, the patient. While paramedics acknowledged a shared electronic record (such as EPaCCs) could support them to provide community-based care where desired and appropriate, numerous practical and technical issues must be overcome to ensure the successful implementation of such a record.
Conclusions: Access to up-to-date patient information is a barrier to paramedics delivering appropriate end-of-life care. Current approaches to information recording are often inconsistent, inaccurate, and inaccessible to paramedics. Whilst a shared electronic record may provide paramedics with greater and timelier access to patient information, meaning they are better able to facilitate community-based care, this is only one of a series of improvements required to enable this to become routine practice.
Background: care in the final year of life accounts for 10% of inpatient hospital costs in UK. However, there has been little analysis of costs in other care settings. We investigated the publicly funded costs associated with the end of life across different health and social care settings.
Method: we performed cross-sectional analysis of linked electronic health records of residents aged over 50 in a locality in East London, UK, between 2011 and 2017. Those who died during the study period were matched to survivors on age group, sex, deprivation, number of long-term conditions and time period. Mean costs were calculated by care setting, age and months to death.
Results: across 8,720 matched patients, the final year of life was associated with £7,450 (95% confidence interval £7,086–£7,842, P < 0.001) of additional health and care costs, 57% of which related to unplanned hospital care. Whilst costs increased sharply over the final few months of life in emergency and inpatient hospital care, in non-acute settings costs were less concentrated in this period. Patients who died at older ages had higher social care costs and lower healthcare costs than younger patients in their final year of life.
Conclusions: the large proportion of costs relating to unplanned hospital care suggests that end-of-life planning could direct care towards more appropriate settings and lead to system efficiencies. Death at older ages results in an increasing proportion of care costs relating to social care than to healthcare, which has implications for an ageing society.
OBJECTIVE: Hospice at Home (HAH) services aim to enable patients to be cared for and die at home, if that is their choice and achieve a 'good death'. A national survey, in 2017, aimed to describe and compare the features of HAH services and understand key enablers to service provision.
METHODS: Service managers of adult HAH services in the 'Hospice UK' and National Association for Hospice at Home directories within England were invited to participate. Information on service configuration, referral, staffing, finance, care provision and enablers to service provision were collected by telephone interview.
RESULTS: Of 128 services invited, 70 (54.7%) provided data. Great diversity was found. Most services operated in mixed urban/rural (74.3%) and mixed deprivation (77.1%) areas and provided hands-on care (97.1%), symptom assessment and management (91.4%), psychosocial support (94.3%) and respite care (74.3%). Rapid response (within 4 hours) was available in 65.7%; hands-on care 24 hours a day in 52.2%. Charity donations were the main source of funding for 71.2%. Key enablers for service provision included working with local services (eg, district nursing, general practitioner services), integrated health records, funding and anticipatory care planning. Access to timely medication and equipment was critical.
CONCLUSION: There is considerable variation in HAH services in England. Due to this variation it was not possible to categorise services into delivery types. Services work to supplement local care using a flexible approach benefitting from integration and funding. Further work defining service features related to patient and/or carer outcomes would support future service development.
BACKGROUND: Residential care homes (RCHs) are increasingly becoming a common place of death for older people.
AIM: The aim of this study was to describe family members' experiences of care of the dying in RCHs where the Liverpool care pathway for the dying patient was used.
METHODS: This study had a descriptive qualitative study design. Fifteen (n=15) individual interviews were analysed using qualitative content analysis.
RESULTS: The analysis resulted in three themes: being confident in a familiar and warm atmosphere, being involved vs not being involved in end-of-life (EoL) care, and being consoled by witnessing the health professional's endeavour to relieve suffering.
SIGNIFICANCE OF RESULTS: The results indicated that taking part in a care plan seems to increase family members' feelings of involvement in EoL care. This study also highlights the family members' needs for increased possibilities for EoL discussions with the GP.
This paper presents a study that examines the potential value of a new and innovative inter-professional education (IPE) experience for final year midwifery and children's nursing students focused on improving awareness of end-of-life care for infants in conjunction with the support of their families. The study uses an action research approach to examine midwifery and children's nursing student experiences of an IPE initiative in developing knowledge regarding perinatal/neonatal palliative care.
The setting is a Higher Education Institute in the South of England that included final year midwifery students (n = 39) and children's nursing students (n = 34) taking part in the study. Qualitative and quantitative data indicated that the IPE intervention had proven worth in developing knowledge and confidence in the students as both student groupings felt they lacked knowledge and confidence about perinatal/neonatal palliative care before attending the study day.
Students felt that learning with, from and about the other profession represented was important in generating their knowledge. Educators should explore innovative ways to enable the further development of the fledgling speciality of perinatal/neonatal palliative care through education on an interprofessional platform.
Objectives: To consider the type and cost of clinical services delivered for patients with lymphoedema.
Design: Clinical cohort.
Setting: Independent hospices in the North East of England.
Participants All those attending lymphoedema services delivered by the independent hospice sector 2017/2018.
Results: 13 914 lymphoedema appointments were recorded across four independent hospices. Twelve thousand nine hundred and sixty-five were attended, which equates to an approximate cost of £1.56 million. Those with lymphoedema were predominately aged over 65 (54.5%) years with females across all age groups being more predominant (3.3:1). Where the cause was recorded, 66% of activity related to lymphoedema was not secondary to cancer.
Conclusion: Independent hospices are providing a specialist lymphoedema service, which is high in volume and largely invisible. This service is delivered at not insignificant cost. In contrast to previous work, in the North East of England, lymphoedema sufferers are more likely to be female and not have the condition in association with cancer. The availability of rigorous data collection will allow the independent hospices to understand better the delivery and associated costs of lymphoedema services.
St Christopher’s Hospice, London, was founded to provide specialist care to the incurably ill. We studied the dimensions of difference that set St Christopher’s Hospice apart from hospital care of the dying, focusing on physical space and social organization. Material from 1953 to 1980 from the Cicely Saunders Archive was analyzed qualitatively. Through thematic analysis, quotes were found and analyzed using open coding. Five themes were developed. Themes identified were home/homelike, community, consideration of others, link with outside world, and privacy. The hospice philosophy functioned as the catalyst for the development of the physical environment of St Christopher’s Hospice. Taking Habermas’ concept of lifeworld, it seems that, in contrast to acute care, the need for hospice to formulate their own lifeworld to support and fully engage patients was central. As lifeworlds are culture sensitive, this underlines the need for variation in design and organization of hospices around the world.
Building on work on post-Fordist affect, we argue that the group-based and person-centered forms of production in mining and milling, respectively, produce contingent conceptualizations of culture, identity, and personhood and, in turn, of dying and death. The “communal solidarism” characteristic of post-mining milieu engenders senses of dying and death entailing a communal merging of erstwhile individual selfhoods. In post-milling milieu dying and death are conceptualized as individuated, but subject to social evaluation. The evaluative criterion in this regard is ability to “perform” dying and death in ways that reflect the valorized essence of local culture, identity, and personhood, “resilient autonomy.”