Researchers have published the first set of indicators intended to specially help measure the quality and impact of palliative day services across the UK.
Those behind the initiative said it would enable service providers to “effectively describe and evaluate” the quality of their care for the first time, while also identifying areas for improvement.
“We believe these indicators can enable service providers to measure the quality of their care”
Charity Marie Curie noted that palliative day services provided by hospices were designed to offer holistic care that contributes to the quality of life of people with terminal illness and their families.
But it said, until now, there had been no published standard on what these services should look like and how to demonstrate their effectiveness in supporting patients and families.
The researchers said they hoped the new standards would help staff to understand the best way to care for people and their families, at a time when demand was growing and resources are limited.
As part of the research, which was funded by Marie Curie, an expert panel independently reviewed evidence on 182 possible indicators and rated their appropriateness, feasibility, and necessity.
“We were delighted to be part of this research, working with colleagues from across the UK”
From this, 30 indicators were identified as a starting point for quality improvement, which were compiled into a “toolkit” and tested in five palliative day services settings in the UK. The final set comprises seven structural indicators, 21 process indicators and two outcome indicators.
They include measuring the proportion of service users with assessment of pain severity, breathlessness and fatigue at screening using a valid measure. Others include the proportion of service users who report they are provided with sufficient, appropriately tailored information or advice on their condition.
Lead researcher Dr Noleen McCorry, from Queens University Belfast, said: “We carried out this research as there was no published standard for evaluating day services, so there was no way of determining the quality of a service.
“We believe these indicators can enable service providers to measure the quality of their care, allowing them to identify areas for improvement and ultimately provide a better-quality service for patients,” she said.
She added: “It’s also important that services will be able to demonstrate improvement, when dealing with key stakeholders and commissioners for further services, securing the future of better palliative care services.”
“Day services make an important contribution to the palliative care experience of patients”
Julie Pearce, Marie Curie executive director of nursing, allied health professionals and quality, said: “This is the first time that a qualitative approach has been used to develop quality indicators for day services and that’s a step in the right direction.
“Day services make an important contribution to the palliative care experience of patients; future provision is likely to expand to enable more people to access specialist palliative care and support,” she noted.
“These indicators could help shape services, whilst also demonstrating their effectiveness in supporting the patient and family,” she added.
Dr Paul Perkins, interim chief medical director at Sue Ryder and co-author of the research, said he hoped the measures would help hospices to “reflect on how best they can drive improvement”.
“We were delighted to be part of this research, working with colleagues from across the UK so we can all bring our expertise to ensure we deliver the highest standards of care,” he said.
The researchers, whose findings are published in the journal Palliative Medicine, said they were now working towards creating an online toolkit, which would make improvements easier to assess.