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Hospice wards 'better staffed and better quality'

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Hospice wards are better staffed than NHS palliative care wards and provide better quality care, at a higher cost, according to research shared with Nursing Times.

Researchers monitored occupancy levels of 28 wards for a month, along with the seriousness of patients’ condition (measured as dependency), staffing levels and quality standards.

They found hospice beds had a higher average occupancy and more dependent patients. They also had more staff – 3.82 whole time equivalent nurses per bed, compared to 2.21 for hospitals.

The effect of this was a higher cost of running each bed for hospices at £258, compared to £142 for hospital wards.

An assessment of quality based on an “extensive audit” gave hospice wards a score of 87 per cent and hospital wards 82 per cent.

The research was carried out by Keith Hurst, an independent workforce analyst, and Dai Roberts, the research and development lead for St Ann’s Hospice in Cheadle.

It says: “We tested almost 5,000 quality standards in hospices and noted that staff exceeded more quality standards than their palliative care counterparts. As we shall see later, these differences are related to staffing levels rather than palliative care staff lacking knowledge or skills.”

The researchers found palliative care hospital staff had more “time out” from work – but that more of it was owing to sickness than training leave.

The summary says: “Hospice staff face markedly heavier workloads; are better staffed, more expensive to run, but deliver higher-quality care compared to NHS palliative care wards.”

Dr Hurst told Nursing Times: “It shows that if managers are willing to invest in the staff they will reap benefits of higher quality, particularly for this vulnerable group of patients.”

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Readers' comments (1)

  • I would be surprised if anybody else is surprised by this finding. The cutbacks in frontline staff in the NHS are becoming increasingly difficult to manage and care standards are inevitably falling as the remaining staff struggle to cope with workloads.

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