Goals of work: The objective of the study is to assess the Palliative Care Outcome Scale (POS) as a potential audit tool within a specialist cancer centre. It also aims to answer the following questions: does the tool identify problem areas and demonstrate changes in quality of life over time? How well do staff and patient ratings correlate?
Patients and methods: The POS questionnaire was piloted at a specialist cancer centre. Thirty consecutive patients admitted to the palliative care wards and ward staff completed questionnaires on admission and twice weekly until discharge or death. A further questionnaire assessed staff attitudes.
Results: There was a significant improvement in overall patient POS score at 1 week (days 5-9). Four "symptoms" or issues were scored as being important for our patients: pain, other symptoms, anxiety and patient's perception of family anxiety. These all significantly improved within the first week. At the initial assessment, staff underestimated patients' pain and overestimated problems relating to information giving and patients' ability to share their feelings. There was no significant difference between staff and patient scores after 1 week. The other six areas covered by the tool were less important; this may reflect the patient population seen at our centre. Use of the tool identified areas for staff training and effectively demonstrated improvement in patient care.
Conclusion: The POS is an outcome measure tool designed to assess physical, psychological, practical and existential aspects of quality of life. It may be useful in identifying problems in individual patients and directing care to address these needs.