Why do health professionals refer individual patients to specialist day hospice care?

J Palliat Med. 2011 Feb;14(2):133-8. doi: 10.1089/jpm.2010.0372. Epub 2011 Jan 16.


Background: There are no nationally agreed criteria for admission to specialist palliative day care (SPDC). Previous work has called for future research to qualitatively examine why health and social professionals make referrals to day care. Therefore the current study aims to address this question using semistructured interviews to gain first hand accounts of referrers' reasons for making referrals to SPDC.

Design and method: The reasons for referral to SPDC of eight professionals were explored using semistructured interviews. An exploratory methodology (interpretative phenomenological analysis [IPA]) was used to analyze the data to allow for an in-depth investigation.

Results: Six main themes were apparent with regard to referring a patient to SPDC: physical, social and psychological well-being, continuity of care, introduction to the hospice environment, and caregiver respite.

Conclusions: This study provides an insight into reasons for referral to SPDC. Referrers value the multiprofessional team, the holistic approach to care as useful to managing difficult, complex, and persistent problems in patients wishing to be cared for in the community. Additional benefits include a helpful introduction to hospice services and much needed regular respite for caregivers. Future research into patient and professional perceptions of the process of referral to SPDC could be useful. Expansion of the current study could contribute to the development of a standardized referral tool to be used in conjunction with referrers' clinical judgment.

MeSH terms

  • Continuity of Patient Care
  • Decision Making
  • Female
  • Health Personnel*
  • Hospice Care*
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Referral and Consultation*
  • Respite Care
  • Social Isolation
  • Specialization*