Background Current NICE Guidelines recommend that acute hospitals should provide access to face to face specialist palliative care assessments, 9 am–5 pm, 7 days per week. Continuity of specialist palliative care input is also highlighted in the End of Life Care Strategy. Tertiary cancer centres are often considered to have higher levels of palliative care skills among medical and nursing staff. The impact/need of a 7 day week specialist palliative care service is unclear. Clatterbridge Centre for Oncology, a tertiary cancer centre, has provided a 7-day service by Clinical Nurses Specialists (CNS) since April 2011.
Aim To evaluate the impact of 7 day face-to-face access to specialist palliative care, and to explore how the service is valued and used by oncology staff.
Method A questionnaire was sent to 120 medical and nursing staff.
Results The response rate was 48%.Two-thirds of staff had used the service, with 95% finding it very helpful. Pain management was the most common reason for requesting advice (35 occasions). Further common reasons for referral included opioid toxicity, agitation and care of dying patients. Other reasons included chest secretions, vomiting, psychological/spiritual care, and family/carer support. The service was used 1–5 times by 80% of staff, and 6–10 times by 11% of staff. However, 6% of staff used the service on more than 10 occasions. All staff found the CNSs to be accessible (very=88%, quite=12%). The service was considered to be very important or important by 96% of staff. Qualitative information demonstrated that the service was seen as crucial, excellent and was highly valued.
Conclusion This survey demonstrated the need for the service in a regional oncology centre and that it was valued by both medical and nursing staff. The survey also provided information for areas requiring further educational input.
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