Hospice care has been established in the UK for more than 50 years, yet the public’s knowledge of hospice care continues to be very limited. Despite many hospice admissions being for the purpose of symptom control, a common misperception is that hospices provide ‘end of life’ care only. Understandably, this can lead to high levels of anxiety for patients and their families who are considering hospice admission and may result in them declining much-needed care.
Two questionnaires were given to patients admitted to St Michael’s Hospice in North Hampshire between April and October 2021: one within 24 hours of admission and a second at discharge. Only patients who were admitted for symptom control reasons were included in the study, with questions focussing on patients’ knowledge of hospice care, their concerns and if their opinions of hospices had changed at discharge.
15 patients completed the admission questionnaire; 8 (53%) responded that they had minimal knowledge about hospice care, whilst 5 patients (33%) reported that they knew at least ‘a little’. The most common fear was of dying during admission (3 patients; 20%); all of whom went on to be discharged home. Of the 7 patients who completed a discharge questionnaire, 6 (86%) felt the admission had changed their views about hospices, with 3 (43%) commenting that they now realised hospices were not just for end of life care. One patient now felt empowered to make decisions whilst another felt more positive about the future.
This study demonstrated that patients hold many misperceptions about hospice care; the most common being that it is only for ‘end of life’, causing significant anxiety for patients. Efforts must be made to alter the image of the hospice, or we risk losing the opportunity to provide high-quality palliative care to patients who need it most.
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