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Where do patients known to a community palliative care service die?


Objectives The majority of people would prefer to die at home and National Health Service policy aims to support this concept. This service evaluation compared the preferred and actual place of death of patients known to a specialist community palliative care service.

Design All deaths of patients (n=788) known to the specialist palliative care service from 1 January 2009 to 31 December 2010 were examined in a service evaluation to compare the actual place of death with the preferred place of death previously identified by the patient. Triggers for admission were established when patients did not achieve this preference.

Results 69% of patients (n=263) who expressed a preference to die at home and 82% of patients (n=93) who expressed a preference to die as inpatients in the hospice fulfilled these preferences. 71% of patients (n=298) who wanted to die in their current place of residence achieved this preference.

54% of patients (n=121) who declined to express a preference for end-of-life care subsequently died in hospital, reflecting the importance of advance care planning.

Conclusions The perceived lack of social support for patients dying at home is a significant trigger for admission to a hospice. The provision of sitters to support patients dying at home may ensure people achieve their preference. Commissioners consider preferred place of care to be a marker of quality, but clinical events that precipitate admission are often outside the influence of the palliative care team.

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