Public Health Awareness Campaigns & palliative care

The Impact of Public Health Awareness Campaigns on the Awareness and Quality of Palliative Care | Journal of Palliative Medicine

Objective: The right to health includes a right of access to good quality palliative care, but inequalities persist. Raising awareness is a key plank of the public health approach to palliative care, but involves consideration of subjects most of us prefer not to address. This review addresses the question: “do public health awareness campaigns effectively improve the awareness and quality of palliative care”?

Background: The evidence shows that public awareness campaigns can improve awareness of palliative care and probably improve quality of care, but there is a lack of evidence about the latter.

Results: A comprehensive public awareness campaign about palliative care (including advance care planning and end-of-life decision making) should be based on clear and shared terminology, use well piloted materials, and the full range of mass media to suit different ages, cultures, and religious/spiritual perspectives. Arts and humanities have a role to play in allowing individuals and communities to express experiences of illness, death, and grief and encourage conversation and thoughtful reflection. There is evidence about key factors for success: targeting, networking, and use of specific, measurable, achievable, realistic time-bound objectives; continuous evaluation; and complementarity to national and international policy.

Discussion: Campaigns should be located within the framework of public health promotion and the synergy between short national mass media campaigns and longer term local community action initiatives carefully considered. National and local projects to raise awareness should identify and address any barriers at the level of individuals, communities, and systems of care, for example, literacy skills and unequal access to resources.

Full reference:
Seymour, J | The Impact of Public Health Awareness Campaigns on the Awareness and Quality of Palliative Care |Journal of Palliative Medicine |January 2018, 21 (S1): S-30-S-36.


The state of hospice services in England 2014 to 2017

The state of hospice services in England 2014 to 2017 presents findings from the Care Quality Commission’s programme of inspections.

The CQC inspected hospice services in England between October 2014 and January 2017.

cqc hospice
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The results found that Hospice care across England has the highest percentage of health and social care services that are rated outstanding (25%), and a further 70% are rated good.

The inspections found that hospice leaders and frontline staff displayed a strong commitment to providing truly person-centred, compassionate care and support to people using their services, and their loved ones. They also developed strong relationships with other services in the area.

However, the report makes the case that there is more to be done to make sure that everyone, regardless of their background or circumstances, can access high-quality end of life care. Hospice services rated as outstanding were striving to overcome such inequalities and share their expertise to drive better care in other services.

Full report: The state of hospice services in England 2014 to 2017. Findings from CQC’s initial programme of comprehensive inspections of hospice services 

Spiritual care in palliative care influences patient-reported outcomes

van de Geer, J. et al. Palliative Medicine. Published online: November 9 2016


Background: Spiritual care is reported to be important to palliative patients. There is an increasing need for education in spiritual care.

Aim: To measure the effects of a specific spiritual care training on patients’ reports of their perceived care and treatment.

Design: A pragmatic controlled trial conducted between February 2014 and March 2015.

Setting/participants: The intervention was a specific spiritual care training implemented by healthcare chaplains to eight multidisciplinary teams in six hospitals on regular wards in which patients resided in both curative and palliative trajectories. In total, 85 patients were included based on the Dutch translation of the Supportive and Palliative Care Indicators Tool. Data were collected in the intervention and control wards pre- and post-training using questionnaires on physical symptoms, spiritual distress, involvement and attitudes (Spiritual Attitude and Involvement List) and on the perceived focus of healthcare professionals on patients’ spiritual needs.

Results: All 85 patients had high scores on spiritual themes and involvement. Patients reported that attention to their spiritual needs was very important. We found a significant (p = 0.008) effect on healthcare professionals’ attention to patients’ spiritual and existential needs and a significant (p = 0.020) effect in favour of patients’ sleep. No effect on the spiritual distress of patients or their proxies was found.

Conclusion: The effects of spiritual care training can be measured using patient-reported outcomes and seemed to indicate a positive effect on the quality of care. Future research should focus on optimizing the spiritual care training to identify the most effective elements and developing strategies to ensure long-term positive effects.

Read the abstract here

Family caregivers’ conceptualisation of quality end-of-life care for people with dementia

Davies, N. et al. Palliative Medicine. Published online: October 25, 2016

Background: People with dementia have been described as the ‘disadvantaged dying’ with poor end-of-life care. Towards the end of life, people with dementia cannot report on the care they receive. It is therefore important to talk to caregivers; however, few have explored the views about end-of-life care from the caregivers’ perspective. The majority of research on family caregivers has focussed on the burden and psychological impact of caring for a relative with dementia.

Aim: This study aimed to explore the views of family caregivers about quality end-of-life care for people with dementia.

Design: Qualitative study using in-depth interviews and analysed using thematic analysis.

Setting/participants: Purposive sampling from a third sector organisation’s caregiver network was used to recruit 47 caregivers in England (2012–2013), consisting of (1) family caregivers of someone who had recently received a diagnosis of dementia, (2) family caregivers currently caring for someone with dementia and (3) bereaved family caregivers.

Results: Three over-arching themes were derived from the interviewees’ discourse, including maintaining the person within, fostering respect and dignity and showing compassion and kindness.

Conclusion: End-of-life care for people with dementia does not differ from care throughout the dementia trajectory. Throughout the findings, there is an implicit underlying theme of conflict: conflict between family caregivers and an increasingly systematised service of care and conflict between family caregivers and professionals. This study has in particular demonstrated the importance of the psycho-social aspects of care, aligning with the holistic definition of palliative care.

Read the full article here

Early palliative care improves coping & quality of life for patients with incurable cancers

ScienceDaily | Published online: 7 September 2016.

A randomized clinical trial found that introducing palliative care shortly after a diagnosis of certain metastatic cancers greatly increases a patient’s coping abilities, as well as overall quality of life. Researchers also found that early integration of palliative care results in an increase in discussions about patient end-of-life care preferences.

The findings are part of a growing body of evidence demonstrating the benefits of palliative care on patient quality of life. This study will be presented at the upcoming 2016 Palliative Care in Oncology Symposium in San Francisco.

To explore the effects of early palliative care, researchers randomly assigned 350 patients, who had been recently diagnosed with incurable lung or non-colorectal gastrointestinal cancer, to receive early palliative care integrated with oncology care or oncology care alone.

Read the abstract commentary here

Improving the quality of care in the last days of life: A practical guide to getting the medications right

London Clinical Networks. Published online: 14 July 2016


This document identifies best practice in the way medications should be managed in the last days of life. It sets out high level, evidence-based recommendations to help guide those responsible for care to review their processes and consider ways to make change where necessary.

This document aligns with Statement 11 in the NICE Quality Standard 13, End of life care for adults by addressing what needs to be done with people’s medications so that the care they are offered remains coordinated and delivered in the best way possible.

NHS England’s publication Actions for end of life care: 2014-162 sets out its commitment for statutory and voluntary partners in health and social care to work together to develop a vision for end of life care in future. This work is being carried out by the Ambitions for End of Life Care Partnership . The Partnership aims to transform experiences of end of life care by focusing on what would improve person-centred care, encouraging local communities to engage with the need for high quality care at the end of life, highlighting what would enable better coordination of care in the last days of life, and supporting networks of facilitators and champions.

Read the full report here

National Survey of Bereaved People (VOICES): England, 2015

ONS Statistical Bulletin

Main points:

  • 3 out of 4 bereaved people (75%) rate the overall quality of end of life care for their relative as outstanding, excellent or good; 1 out of 10 (10%) rated care as poor.
  • Overall quality of care for females was rated significantly higher than males with 44% of respondents rating the care as outstanding or excellent compared with 39% for males.
  • 7 out of 10 people (69%) rated hospital care as outstanding, excellent or good which is significantly lower compared with care homes (82%), hospice care (79%) or care at home (79%).
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Image source: ONS
  • Ratings of fair or poor quality of care are significantly higher for those living in the most deprived areas (29%) compared with the least deprived areas (22%).
  • 1 out of 3 (33%) reported that the hospital services did not work well together with GP and other services outside the hospital.
  • 3 out of 4 bereaved people (75%) agreed that the patient’s nutritional needs were met in the last 2 days of life, 1 out of 8 (13%) disagreed that the patient had support to eat or receive nutrition.
  • More than 3 out of 4 bereaved people (78%) agreed that the patient had support to drink or receive fluid in the last 2 days of life, almost 1 out of 8 (12%) disagreed that the patient had support to drink or receive fluid.
  • More than 5 out of 6 bereaved people (86%) understood the information provided by health care professionals, but 1 out of 6 (16%) said they did not have time to ask questions to health care professionals.
  • Almost 3 out of 4 (74%) respondents felt hospital was the right place for the patient to die, despite only 3% of all respondents stating patients wanted to die in hospital.

Read the full report here