Background: Within the United Kingdom, a developing role for primary care services in cancer and palliative care has resulted in an increase in palliative home care teams. The provision of professional care in the home setting seeks to provide necessary services and enhanced choice for patients whose preference is to die at home.A mismatch between patient preference for home death and the actual number of people who died at home was identified within Bradford, the locality of this study. In response to this mismatch, and reflecting the policy environment of wishing to enhance community service provision, the four Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) in the city sought to offer support to patients who wished to remain in their own homes through the final stages of a terminal illness. To offer this support they set up a dedicated hospice at home team. This would provide services and support for patients in achieving a dignified, symptom free and peaceful death, allowing families to maximise time spent together. The aim of the study was to evaluate the Bradford hospice at home service from the perspective of carers, nurses and General Practitioners.
Methods: Postal questionnaires were sent to carers (n = 289), district nurses (n = 508) and GP's (n = 444) using Bradford's hospice at home service. Resulting quantitative data was analysed using the Statical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS) and qualitative data was analysed using grounded theory techniques.
Results: The data from carers, district nurses and GPs provide general support for the Bradford hospice at home service. Carers valued highly the opportunity to 'fulfil a promise' to the individual who wished to be cared for at home. District nurses and GPs cited the positive impact of access to specialist expertise. This was a 'reassuring presence' for primary healthcare teams and offered 'relief of carer anxiety' by providing prompt, accessible and sensitive care.
Conclusion: Carers and health professionals welcomed the increased possibility of patients being cared for at home. The study identified the need to focus on improving skill levels of staff and on ensuring continuity of care.