Hospice UK is today publishing a report with The Nuffield Trust, which shows the contribution of hospices to the nation’s health and wellbeing throughout the pandemic.
This report shows that hospices continue to play a vital role in providing quality end of life care.
Craig Duncan, interim Chief Executive of Hospice UK
The report illustrates the breadth of services offered by hospices to their communities, which have been key to supporting quality end of life care throughout the pandemic. Hospices provided care for more than 300,000 dying people and their families in 2020-21.
This research is the first detailed national picture of hospice care since 2017 and most comprehensive analysis since 2011. The research highlights that the services offered by hospices to their communities are much more than many people expect, and go well beyond the hospice walls.
Having adapted rapidly during the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, hospices were able to continue supporting communities by providing more hospice at home care, support for family and friends, virtual services and bereavement support. By being agile and quick to adapt, hospices were able to give people in their communities the excellent support and care they needed.
However, with over 100,000 extra deaths at home in the first two years of the pandemic, the report also raises questions for the provision of end of life care into the future.
The Nuffield Trust’s analysis of a survey of hospices conducted by Hospice UK shows there has been a shift during the pandemic in where and how hospice services are provided. A clear majority of hospice care is delivered at home, rising to almost a million ‘hospice at home’ contacts in 2020/21.
Having switched to providing services remotely in response to concern from patients about attending appointments, and to reduce risk of COVID-19 infections, along with hospice at home care, hospices also moved to virtual support.
Throughout the pandemic, hospices conducted over 120,000 community support contacts between people and services, along with virtual welfare, bereavement, and therapy services.
Craig Duncan, interim Chief Executive of Hospice UK said: “This report shows that hospices continue to play a vital role in providing quality end of life care. Having adapted so quickly during the pandemic, hospices have been able to serve their communities and provided much needed care for people and their families at a time when it was most needed.
“Hospices are often best placed to provide high-quality, holistic care for a dying person either in the hospice itself, or more commonly at home. The pandemic has only reaffirmed that hospices play a key role in ensuring that people get the best quality care and are able to die where they wish, with the support they need.
“More and more we have seen that hospice staff have been able to provide quality end of life care throughout the pandemic and beyond. As part of an increasingly integrated health and care system, hospices will continue to deliver important end of life care for their community into the future.”
The report shows that despite providing excellent care throughout the pandemic and adapting so quickly to a change in need, hospices must be supported to respond appropriately to changing patterns in where and how people are dying.
If hospices are to maintain their services and their ability to best support their local community, better quality data on what hospices do, who they support and how, is vital. Improving data collection is key to ensuring hospices continue to adapt their end of life care to meet the needs of their communities.
Read 'Support at the end of life: The role of hospice services across the UK', produced by the Nuffield Trust and Hospice UK.
Paul Jennings: how hospices responded to the pandemic
Hospice UK Chair Paul Jennings writes a commentary piece in response to the Nuffield Trust's research report, 'Support at the end of life'.