Background Necessary service changes arising from the COVID-19 pandemic provided an opportunity to review patients’ preferences for the delivery of hospice care and support. Many face-to-face services were replaced with telephone and virtual methods which had not been routinely used previously.
Aim To identify and understand the impact of service changes on patients’, clients’ and families’ experiences of Dorothy House Hospice (DH), Salisbury Hospice (Salisbury), and Prospect Hospice (Prospect) in the context of COVID-19, and explore respondents’ communication preferences.
Method A postal questionnaire was disseminated to all patients and clients who had used the hospices’ services in the prior 3 months (DH summer 2020, Salisbury and Prospect Autumn 2021). Using closed questions and free-text comments, the survey requested feedback on communications received and difficulties experienced. Preferences for future communication types were elicited. Data were analysed using frequency counts and thematic analysis of free-text comments.
Results 294 responses were received (patients n=166(56%); families and carers n=98(33%); bereaved n=29(10%); unknown n=1(1%)). Respondents were predominantly aged 65+ (71%).
The majority of respondents (86%) reported receiving the right amount of information, and were happy with the type of contact received (85%). The preferred format for future contact was face-to-face (74%), the least preferred was video calls (19%). Qualitative data indicated respondents were positive about the continuity and availability of support from their hospices despite the challenges of the pandemic. Those who engaged with virtual services, reported minor technical difficulties. Bereavement groups/buddy systems for patients and families to socialise with people who had similar experience to them, were particularly welcomed.
Conclusion The majority of responses were overwhelmingly positive; with patients, families, carers and bereaved people reporting confidence and feeling reassured about the availability and accessibility of alternative supports. Our data suggest mixed modalities of service delivery are acceptable to service users when they understand the rationale for change and have the necessary technical support for online communication.
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