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Specialist palliative cancer care in acute hospitals and place of death: a population study


Objective This study compares the characteristics and place of death of patients with cancer receiving specialist palliative care in acute hospitals with those who do not.

Methods All patients with incident invasive cancer in Ireland (1994–2016 inclusive), excluding non-melanoma skin cancer, who attended a cancer centre and died in 2016 were identified from cancer registry data. Patients were categorised based on a diagnosis code ‘Encounter for palliative care’ from linked hospital episode data. Place of death was categorised from death certificate data. Data were analysed using descriptive statistics, χ2 tests and logistic regression.

Results Of n=4103 decedents identified, 62% had a hospital-based palliative care encounter in the year preceding death. Age (p<0.001), marital status (p=0.017), deprivation index (p<0.001) and health board region (p=0.008) were independent predictors of having a palliative care encounter. Place of death differed by palliative care encounter group: 45% of those with an encounter died in hospital versus 50% without an encounter, 33% vs 16% died in a hospice and 18% vs 28% died at home (p<0.001).

Conclusion Almost two-thirds of patients with cancer who attended a cancer centre and died in 2016 had a palliative care encounter. They were younger, less likely to be married and more likely to be from deprived areas. Having accounted for sociodemographic factors, there was evidence of regional variation in receiving care. Demographic and clinical factors and the provision of health services in a region need to be considered together when assessing end-of-life care.

  • cancer
  • terminal care
  • hospital care

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