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Presuppositions, cost–benefit, collaboration, and competency impacts palliative care referral in paediatric oncology: a qualitative study

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Article number215
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>2/12/2022
<mark>Journal</mark>BMC Palliative Care
Issue number1
Number of pages15
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Background: Although a significant proportion of children with cancer need palliative care, few are referred or referred late, with oncologists and haematologists gatekeeping the referral process. We aimed to explore the facilitators and barriers to palliative care referral. Methods: Twenty-two paediatric oncologists and haematologists were purposively recruited and interviewed. Data were analysed using reflexive thematic analysis. Findings were interpreted using the critical realist paradigm. Results: Four themes were generated. 1) Oncologists expressed concern about the competency of palliative care teams. Palliative care often symbolised therapeutic failure and abandonment, which hindered referral. Trustworthy palliative care providers had clinical competence, benevolence, and knowledge of oncology and paediatrics. 2) Making a palliative care referral was associated with stigma, navigating illness-related factors, negative family attitudes and limited resources, impeding palliative care referral. 3) There were benefits to palliative care referral, including symptom management and psychosocial support for patients. However, some could see interactions with the palliative care team as interference hindering future referrals. 4) Suggested strategies for developing an integrated palliative care model include evident collaboration between oncology and palliative care, early referral, rebranding palliative care as symptom control and an accessible, knowledgeable, and proactive palliative care team. Conclusion: Presuppositions about palliative care, the task of making a referral, and its cost-benefits influenced referral behaviour. Early association with an efficient rebranded palliative care team might enhance integration.