Background COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on care homes, their residents and staff. Over 37,000 UK care home residents have died from COVID-19; many more have experienced symptoms and distress (Scobie, 2021). There has been very limited examination of palliative and end-of-life care in care homes during COVID-19, or strategies to improve this.
Aims To examine the experiences of care homes in England of providing palliative and end-of-life care during the COVID-19 pandemic and make recommendations for policy.
Methods Online survey (in REDCap) of care home staff with leadership responsibilities, identified through established networks. The survey included structured data and free-text comments on COVID-19 outbreaks, experiences of symptom assessment and control, and impact on workforce. The primary outcome was staff self-efficacy to provide palliative and end-of-life care (Phillips, Salamonson, Davidson, 2011).
Results Interim analysis of 66 respondents found that most staff felt confident to provide palliative care, as measured by the self-efficacy scale (median 3.75, range 1-4 ). 51% (33/65) of respondents identified issues with staff shortages during the pandemic; 38% (24/64) experienced changes in staff responsibilities; 18% (12/65) experienced challenges in recognising that residents may be dying. 18% (12/65) of care homes did not allow visitors at the end-of-life, and 39% (25/64) experienced difficulties in accessing help from other services. 51% (33/65) experienced challenges in providing bereavement support to relatives. Free-text comments identified staff shortages and exhaustion, and lack of support from other healthcare services, as barriers to good care.
Conclusion This is the first national survey to explore provision of palliative and end-of-life care in care homes during the COVID-19 pandemic. The results will be used to inform policy to ensure high-quality provision of palliative and end-of-life care during future pandemics.
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