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Inequalities in awareness and availability of bereavement services in North-East England


Objectives National guidance recommends equality in access to bereavement services; despite this, awareness and availability appears inconsistent. The aim of this study was to explore availability and accessibility of bereavement services across the North-East of England and to highlight issues potentially applicable across the UK, at a time of unprecedented need due to the impact of COVID-19.

Methods Phase 1: an eight item, web-based survey was produced. A survey link was cascaded to all GP practices (General Practitioners) in the region. Phase 2: an email was sent to all services identified in phase 1, requesting details such as referral criteria and waiting times.

Results All 392 GP practices in the region were invited to participate. The response rate was 22% (85/392). Twenty-one per cent (18/85) of respondents reported that they do not refer patients, comments included ‘not aware of any services locally’. A total of 36 services were contacted with 72% responding with further information. Most bereavement specific support was reliant on charity-funded services including hospices, this sometimes required a pre-existing link with the hospice. Waiting times were up to 4 months.

Conclusions Although multiple different, usually charity-funded services were identified, awareness and accessibility were variable. This survey was conducted prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, where complex situations surrounding death is likely to impact on the usual grieving process and increase the need for bereavement support. Meanwhile, charities providing this support are under severe financial strain. There is an urgent need to bridge the gap between need and access to bereavement services.

  • bereavement
  • service evaluation
  • supportive care

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