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Enhancing integrated palliative care: what models are appropriate?: A cross-case analysis

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<mark>Journal publication date</mark>28/11/2017
<mark>Journal</mark>BMC Palliative Care
Issue number64
Number of pages10
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Effective integration between hospices, palliative care services and other local health care services to support patients with palliative care needs is an important international priority. A previous model suggests that integration involves a cumulative stepped process of engagement with other organisations labelled as ‘support, supplant or supplement’, but the extent to which this model currently applies in the United Kingdom is unknown. We aimed to investigate accounts of hospice integration with local health care providers, using the framework provided by the model, to determine how service users and healthcare professionals perceived palliative care services and the extent of integration experienced.

Longitudinal organisational case study methods were employed using qualitative serial interviews (interval 3 months) with patients and family carers focusing on how services responded to their needs; and group interviews with health professionals. Data were audio-recorded, transcribed verbatim, and analysed by qualitative content analysis and combined across data sources.

The study focused on four hospices in northern England, including 34 patients (diagnosis: 17 cancer, 10 COPD, 7 heart failure), 65% female, mean age 66 (range 44–89), 13 family carers of these patients (48% partners), and 23 health care professionals. While some care fell short of expectations, all patients reported high levels of satisfaction and valued continuity of care and efficient information sharing. All hospices supported and supplemented local providers, with three
hospices also supplanting local provision by providing in-patient facilities.

UK hospices predominantly operate in ways that support and supplement other providers. In addition, some also supplant local services, taking over direct responsibility and funding in-patient care. They all contributed to integration with local services, with greater blurring of boundaries than defined by the original model. Integrated care offers the necessary flexibility to respond to changes in patient needs, however, constraints from funding drivers and a lack of clear responsibilities in the UK can result in shortfalls in optimal service delivery. Integrating hospice
care with local healthcare services can help to address demographic changes, predominantly more frail older people, and disease factors, including the needs of those with non-malignant conditions. This model, tested in the UK, could serve as an example for other countries.