Background: the need for access to high-quality palliative care at the end of life is becoming of increasing public health concern. The majority of deaths in the UK occur in acute hospitals, and older people are particularly likely to die in this setting. However, little is known about the barriers to palliative care provision for older people within acute hospitals.
Objective: to explore the perspectives of health professionals regarding barriers to optimal palliative care for older people in acute hospitals.
Methods: fifty-eight health professionals participated in eight focus groups and four semi-structured interviews.
Results: participants identified various barriers to palliative care provision for older people, including attitudinal differences to the care of older people, a focus on curative treatments within hospitals and a lack of resources. Participants also reported differing understandings of whose responsibility it was to provide palliative care for older people, and uncertainly over the roles of specialist and generalist palliative care providers in acute hospitals.
Conclusions: numerous barriers exist to the provision of high-quality palliative care for older people within acute hospital settings. Additional research is now required to further explore age-related issues contributing to poor access to palliative care.