Supporting hospice-care home partnerships crucial to widening access to quality end of life care in Scotland

Jun 14, 2017

Partnerships between Scottish hospices and care homes improve people’s end of life experiences and reduce unnecessary hospital admissions but these partnerships face barriers which prevent them from reaching more people according to new research by Hospice UK.

Around 20 per cent of Scots who need palliative care do not get it every year. The Scottish Government has said that by 2021, everyone who needs palliative care should have access to it and it has committed to doubling palliative care in the community. However, to achieve that, care homes must be properly supported to deliver palliative and end of life care the charity argues.

Over 37,000 Scots live in care homes and a fifth of people who die, die in care homes. In response to rising palliative care needs in care homes. National hospice care charity Hospice UK surveyed Scottish hospices and found that 85% provided some form of support to care homes, with many keen to do more.

However, there are a number of barriers facing hospice-care home partnerships including low awareness of their benefits, care home staffing challenges, insufficient data and short-term funding models.

Hospices engage with care homes to provide support and share their knowledge and skills through two main ways. Through individual patient referrals to hospice care for people living in care homes, led mainly by Community Nurse Specialists.

Also through a “whole-home” approach where a group of, or potentially all, care home residents can benefit directly through hospices providing education or training to support care home staff.

Hospice UK’s recommendations include:

  • Increasing awareness of the benefits of hospice-care home partnerships to reduce inequalities in access to expert end of life care in care homes. Especially with Health and Social Care Partnerships working more closely with hospices and care homes
  • Testing and evaluating interventions to build evidence on what works, improving practice and sharing experience
  • Sustaining hospice care knowledge in care homes through innovative approaches
  • Ensuring funding is sustainable and responsive to local need

Tracey Bleakley, Chief Executive of Hospice UK, said:

“Too many people in Scotland don’t get the care they need at the end of life.

“Scottish hospices are helping change that by successfully sharing their expertise to support care in care homes. But more must be done to extend access to care to more people.

“We urge Scotland’s new Health and Social Care Partnerships to tackle the barriers that hospice-care home partnerships face to help ensure that many more people have better access to high quality care in the future.”

Dr Donald Macaskill, Chief Executive of Scottish Care, added:

“Scottish Care is pleased to see the publication of this report. It highlights the importance of well resourced hospice care-home partnerships. Every individual deserves the opportunity to spend their last few days supported in a place they have chosen and by a people who value them as individuals, mould their caring to their character, and which puts them at the centre of attention.

“Experiencing a good death is a human right and doesn’t happen by accident but by adequately planning, resourcing, respecting and shaping that care. The challenges of this report need to be heard.”

Notes to editors

  • Hospices in Scotland support around 20,000 people a year.
  • A copy of Hospice UK’s research is available on the Policy and Advocacy section of Hospice UK’s website
  • Hospice UK’s research highlights that low awareness of the contribution of Scotland’s hospices acts as a barrier to more joint working. While there are examples that hospice-led care in care homes makes a positive difference, evidence is lacking on the full impact on outcomes for patients and families.
  • Other barriers include: high staff turnover in care homes which means that hospice-led interventions in care homes that had led to improvements are not always sustained over time. In addition, funding for hospice-care home partnerships comes through a variety of channels but there is a need for better, more reliable sources of income for these partnerships to support their future growth.


About Hospice UK

  • Hospice UK is the national charity for hospice care and the only membership body for organisations providing hospice care. We support and champion the work of more than 200 of these organisations across the UK.
  • Hospices, and other organisations which provide hospice care, offer vital care for people with terminal or life-limiting conditions and also support their families and carers.
  • For further information about hospice care visit our website or follow us on Twitter @hospiceukPA.
  • Get all the latest news from the hospice and palliative care sector, as well as patient stories, on ehospice UK at: This service is managed by Hospice UK. You can also follow ehospice news on Twitter at @ehospicenews

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