The purpose of this modified critical review of literature is to draw upon the contemporary evidence base to explore the lived experiences of healthcare professionals delivering end-of-life care to patients cared for in mental healthcare settings. People of severe and persistent mental illness are a very vulnerable cohort of patients. They often live with higher-than-average co-morbidities, low than average life expectancy and high mortality rates. Little is known about the experience of mental health professionals delivering end-of-life care to those patients whose care needs can only be met in an in-patient facility. This review aims to provide a window into this experience and draw out the barriers and enablers to good care. For this review, 64 unique titles and abstracts were identified through the search of six databases. The appraisal of these papers resulted in six meeting the inclusion and quality criteria and subsequent syntheses of the findings were presented into three themes:
1) There was a recurrent lack of preparedness of both services and staff to assess and meet the needs of patients at the end-of-life in mental healthcare settings.
2) There was a clear need for collaborative work between mental and physical healthcare professionals; however, this was often difficult to achieve.
3) Patients at the end-of-life with Severe Mental Illness poses specifically challenges which professional caring for them need to be aware of.
The findings of the review were in keeping with other work in the area and provides four main recommendations for practice:
1) Services must have a clearly defined collaborative approach to working relationships between palliative care and mental healthcare professionals.
2) Specific training and education for mental healthcare professionals in end-of-life care and visa verse for physical healthcare professionals when caring for a patient with a comorbid serious mental illness.
3) Thought should be put into the environment of an in-patient mental healthcare ward. While it is recognised the need to maintain safety of patients in these environments, considerations such as the availability to the correct equipment, décor and access to meaningful activity is invaluable for both care giver and patient.
4) Services should consider that their policies and procedures reflect that end-of-life care could be a need of any patient in a services care. The ability to refer to policy and procedure was found to be a comfort and a supportive measure for staff caring for patients at the end-of-life.
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