Background: Internationally, policy calls for care homes to provide reliably good end-of-life care. We undertook a 20-month project to sustain palliative care improvements achieved by a previous intervention.
Aim: To sustain a high standard of palliative care in seven UK nursing care homes using a lower level of support than employed during the original project and to evaluate the effectiveness of this intervention.
Design: Two palliative care nurse specialists each spent one day per week providing support and training to seven care homes in Scotland, United Kingdom; after death audit data were collected each month and analysed.
Results: During the sustainability project, 132 residents died. In comparison with the initial intervention, there were increases in (a) the proportion of deceased residents with an anticipatory care plan in place (b) the proportion of those with Do Not Attempt Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation documentation in place and (c) the proportion of those who were on the Liverpool Care Pathway when they died. Furthermore, there was a reduction in inappropriate hospital deaths of frail and elderly residents with dementia. However, overall hospital deaths increased.
Conclusions: A lower level of nursing support managed to sustain and build on the initial outcomes. However, despite increased adoption of key end-of-life care tools, hospital deaths were higher during the sustainability project. While good support from palliative care nurse specialists and GPs can help ensure that key processes remain in place, stable management and key champions are vital to ensure that a palliative care approach becomes embedded within the culture of the care home.
- Care homes
- nursing homes
- palliative care
- anticipatory care plan
- Liverpool Care Pathway