Volunteers in Palliative Care - A Comparison of Seven European Countries: A Descriptive Study

Pain Pract. 2015 Jul;15(6):572-9. doi: 10.1111/papr.12209. Epub 2014 Apr 28.


Objective: In Europe, volunteers have an important role in the delivery of palliative care. As part of the EU co-funded Europall project, 4 aspects of volunteering in palliative care were studied for 7 European countries (Belgium, England, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, and Spain). These included (1) involvement of volunteers in palliative care, (2) organization of palliative care volunteering, (3) legal regulations concerning volunteering, and (4) education and training of palliative care volunteering.

Design/setting/methods: A literature search combined with an interview study. Information from the scientific literature, and country-specific policy documents were obtained and completed, along with data of consecutive semi-structured interviews with experts in the field of palliative care in the participating countries.

Results: In all countries, volunteers appeared to be involved in palliative care, yet their involvement across health care settings differed per country. England, for example, has the highest number of volunteers whereas Spain has the lowest number. Volunteering is embedded in law and regulations in all participating countries except for England and the Netherlands. In all participating countries, training programs are available and volunteers are organized, both on a national and a regional level.

Conclusion: This study provides a descriptive overview of volunteer work in palliative care in 7 European countries, with a focus on the organizational aspects. Further research should concentrate on the roles and responsibilities of volunteers in the care for the terminally ill in different European health systems.

Keywords: Europe; law; organization; palliative care; training; volunteers.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Belgium
  • Europe
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Netherlands
  • Palliative Care / organization & administration*
  • Spain
  • Volunteers*
  • Workforce