Unscheduled and out-of-hours care for people in their last year of life: a retrospective cohort analysis of national datasets

Bruce Mason, Joannes J Kerssens , Andrew Stoddart, Scott Murray, Sebastien Moine, Anne Finucane, Kirsty Boyd

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Abstract / Description of output

Objectives To analyse patterns of use and costs of unscheduled NHS services for people in the last year of life. Design Retrospective cohort analysis of national datasets with application of standard UK costings Participants and setting All people who died in Scotland in 2016 aged 18 or over (n= 56,407) Main outcome measures Frequency of use of the five unscheduled NHS services in the last 12 months of life by underlying cause of death; patient demographics; Continuous Unscheduled Care pathways (CUPs) followed by patients during each care episode; total NHS and per-patient costs. Results 53,509 patients (94.9%) had at least one contact with an unscheduled care service during their last year of life ( 472,360 contacts) with 34.2% in the last month of life. By linking patient contacts during each episode of care, we identified 206,841 Continuous Unscheduled Care pathways (CUPs); with 133,980 (64.8%) starting out-of-hours. People with cancer were more likely to contact the NHS telephone advice line (63%) (X2(4)=1004,p<.001) or primary care out-of-hours (62%) (X2(4)=1924,p<.001) and have hospital admissions(88%) (X2(4)=2644,p<.001). People with organ failure (79%) contacted the ambulance service most frequently (X2(4)=584,p <.001). Demographic factors associated with more unscheduled care were older age, social deprivation, living in own home, and dying of cancer. People dying with organ failure formed the largest group in the cohort and had the highest NHS costs as a group. The cost of providing services in the community was estimated at 3.9 % of total unscheduled care costs despite handling most out-of-hours calls. Conclusions Over 90% of people used NHS unscheduled care in their last year of life. Different underlying causes of death and demographic factors impacted on initial access and subsequent pathways of care. Managing more unscheduled care episodes in the community has the potential to reduce hospital admissions and overall costs
Original languageEnglish
JournalBMJ Open
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 23 Nov 2020


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