Background The End of Life Strategy makes clear the importance of patient choice. The subsequent drive towards community end of life care masks the reality that even in the best performing areas, over 40% of people will continue to die in hospital. Patient's preferences change as death approaches, with the popularity of hospices significantly increasing. This paper describes one approach by a NHS trust seeking to improve the delivery of palliative and end of life care. The trust made a strategic decision, alongside community initiatives, to invest in a 19 bedded hospital palliative care unit.
Aim To examine the effectiveness of a hospital palliative care unit.
Methods The effectiveness of the unit was measured in terms of patient statistics, complexity and quality of care.
Results The average length of stay was 13 days, proportion of patients who died 62% and occupancy running over 80%. Patient experience data demonstrates high levels of satisfaction, especially in the domains of pain control, respect and dignity, doctors and nurses. Patients were found to have a poorer performance status and require non-oral drugs than a nearby hospice. Staff satisfaction was high. Overall trust performance in Liverpool Care Pathway measures also improved over this time.
Conclusion The unit successfully improved the general dissatisfaction with hospital palliative and end of life care. Positive patient/family feedback and high usage demonstrated that this model could achieve 3 goals: -a better level of palliative care for patients than can be delivered in non-palliative care environments -a cost-effective model: the costs were the same as other medical wards -patient choice. The number of patients who died in a palliative care setting raised the proportion of patients dying in a specialist palliative care environment to the highest in the country. A second unit will open shortly.
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