Background Despite national guidelines highlighting the importance of Bereavement support, research suggests that this continues to be provided inconsistently. Concerns were raised by General Practitioners (GPs) regionally about lack of Bereavement support services. A region wide survey found that GPs referred or sign-posted their patients to multiple different services. 21% of respondents did not refer patients as they were unsure about current services within their locality. This demonstrated a need for a review and mapping of the available services to increase awareness and accessibility.
Methods A Freedom of Information request was sent via email to 36 services in North East England who may provide Bereavement support. This list was generated from services GPs identified in the previous project, all North East hospices and services in the region provided by the mental health charity Mind. Information requested included the number of referrals, access to services (including self-referral), referral criteria and waiting times.
Results Responses were gained from 26 services. Twelve offered Bereavement specific services and eight of these were hospices. From the total responses, only 47% of services that GPs had referred to offered Bereavement specific support. Three of the hospices only accepted referrals if the person had a prior connection to the hospice but most services had no specific criteria apart from age restrictions (i.e. they offered support to adults only). All services accepted self-referrals (except for children where consent was required) or from a healthcare professional including GPs. Number of referrals to each service in 2018 varied widely from 81 to 1522. Waiting time on average was 50 days.
Conclusions This evaluation mapped community Bereavement support services in the North East of England. It will be essential to ensure referrers develop knowledge of who, when, and how to refer to Bereavement services going forward
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