Introduction The proportion of deaths in hospice has increased in England over the last 20 years, but remains small (6% of deaths in 2012). There is little evidence about how geographical accessibility to hospice services affects place of death, particularly in non-hospice deaths, information which could contribute to better service planning for hospices.
Aims To describe for the first time the distance from usual place of residence to nearest hospice for patients dying in locations other than hospice (home, hospital, care homes, elsewhere) in 2012 in South London.
Methods Office for National Statistics (ONS) provided individual death registration data for South London deaths in 2012, excluding those who died in a hospice (n = 16,415). Location of hospices was obtained from the National Council for Palliative Care (NCPC).
A Geographic Information System software (ArcGIS) was used to calculate distance between each death (postcode of usual residence) and the nearest hospice (postcode). Summary statistics are reported (mean, standard deviation, median, minimum and maximum) for distance to nearest hospice and correlations between distance and place of death are undertaken. Variation in South London between boroughs is graphically mapped and includes the location of hospices.
Results The average (median) distance to the nearest hospice for patients (non-hospice deaths) in South London is 4814 m. This varied across boroughs. The shortest average distance was for Richmond upon Thames (4506 m) and the longest for Sutton (4908 m). There is great variation in distance at individual level (range 0–17,173 m) and between boroughs (lowest range in Merton – 132–13,531 m; highest range in Wandsworth – 159–17,173 m).
Conclusion Distance to hospice is potentially an important component of access to hospice services. Further work is needed to understand how geographic accessibility interacts with other factors to affect hospice service use and place of death in South London.
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