Cookies on this website
We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Continue' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

The first national UK survey focused on those bereaved during the COVID-19 pandemic is published in Palliative Medicine. The survey findings inform important recommendations for service delivery of individualised, compassionate end-of-life care during a pandemic.

Healthcare professional holding a patient's hand

Dr Jeff Hanna, Department of Psychiatry, University of Oxford, said:

 

'Healthcare professionals have a pivotal role in facilitating vital interactions between relatives and their loved ones. The vast number of deaths that we have seen in the UK during the COVID-19 pandemic makes the results and analysis work from our national survey important in helping to provide salient lessons for healthcare professionals supporting families in their grief.' 

Public health restrictions have significantly impacted on end-of-life care for dying patients, their families and friends. Bereaved relatives’ described that being unable to visit compounded their distress, especially in the hospital and care home setting. Not being able to visit also impacted on perceptions about how well prepared and supported individuals felt. Despite this, most thought that health and social care teams were doing an exemplary job in the face of huge difficulties. However, lessons must be learned to ensure that practice attenuates to the challenges of the current, and future, pandemics.

Study leads suggest that individual, personal care can be enabled by health and social care professionals who actively and regularly contact family to inform them about their relative’s well-being, care, and treatment, as well as recognise when a patient is approaching the end of their life and communicate this in a sensitive, timely manner to their patient's loved ones. Facilitating family members to be present before death, at a time which is meaningful, was also found to be important.

Recommendations for health and social care professionals during a pandemic

  • Protected time for health and social care professionals to regularly inform family members and friends about their loved one’s condition needs to be prioritised
  • Health and social care professionals need to be able to recognise when a person is approaching the end of their life, to help prepare the family and enable visits to be facilitated in a timely manner
  • Teaching these important aspects of end-of-life care should be prioritised for all health and social care professionals

Dr Catriona Mayland, lead author, Department of Oncology and Metabolism, University of Sheffield, said:

 

‘We need to be able to listen and learn from bereaved people about the key practices which need to be prioritised and adopted during a pandemic. It is by doing so, that we can help enable meaningful, personalised care even in times where this is extremely challenging.’

Dr Stephen Mason, study co-PI, Research and Development Lead for the Palliative Care Unit, University of Liverpool, said:

 

‘As with the analysis from our interview studies, the report data here highlights areas for improvement that are achievable, but require considered development and structural support to enable health and social care professionals to meet the needs of those in the last days of life, and their family and friends.’

 

To read the full paper, Are public health measures and individualised care compatible in the face of a pandemic? A national observational study of bereaved relatives' experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Previous publications include Prioritising wellbeing of health and social care professionals during COVID-19 pandemic and Opportunities for final goodbyes must be prioritised in COVID-19 pandemic.

NIHR OXFORD HEALTH BIOMEDICAL RESEARCH CENTRE NEWS

Please follow the link below to read the news on the NIHR BRC website.

Similar stories

Treating Needle Fears May Reduce COVID-19 Vaccine Hesitancy Rates by 10%

A new large-scale study shows that a quarter of the UK adult population screens positive for a potential injection phobia. These individuals were twice as likely to report that they were COVID-19 vaccine hesitant – they would put off getting vaccinated or never get the jab.

Childhood Family Income and Psychiatric Disorders, Substance Misuse and Violent Crime Arrests

New research from the University of Oxford, University of Helsinki and University of Eastern Finland, shows that low childhood family income does not increase later risks of psychiatric disorders and antisocial behaviours. The research is based on the Finnish population and is published in the International Journal of Epidemiology.

Reducing Ethnic Inequalities in Mental Health Systems

Senior leaders in the NHS and public sector mental health care report on progress to reduce ethnic inequalities in mental health systems as pledged through the Synergi Collaborative Centre's work.

Living and Dying with COVID-19: An Ethical Perspective is Vital

World-leading researchers from the UK Pandemic Ethics Accelerator Collaborative consider - how we should evaluate decisions made during the covid-19 pandemic and the future response to pandemic threats.

Prioritising Wellbeing of Health and Social Care Professionals During COVID-19 Pandemic

The first paper to give voice to health and social care professionals providing end of life care during the pandemic is published in Palliative Medicine, led by researchers at the Universities of Oxford, Liverpool and Sheffield.

Childhood Abdominal Pain May Be Linked to Disordered Eating in Teenagers

New research shows that people who suffer from recurrent abdominal pain in childhood may be more likely to have disordered eating as teenagers.