Differences in palliative care quality between patients with cancer, patients with organ failure and frail patients: A study based on measurements with the Consumer Quality Index Palliative Care for bereaved relatives

Palliat Med. 2016 Sep;30(8):780-8. doi: 10.1177/0269216315627123. Epub 2016 Jan 26.


Background: Palliative care is rooted in the care for incurably ill cancer patients. Yet today there is a recognised need for palliative care for patients with non-cancer conditions. However, the often unpredictable illness trajectories and the difficulty in predicting the imminence of death in people with non-cancer conditions may hamper the provision of high-quality palliative care.

Aim: To compare the quality of palliative care provided to patients with cancer, patients with organ failure and frail patients and their relatives.

Design: An existing dataset was analysed, consisting of data collected through the Consumer Quality Index Palliative Care questionnaire for bereaved relatives.

Setting/participants: Data were analysed of 456 relatives of deceased patients with cancer, patients with organ failure and frail patients from various care settings in the Netherlands.

Results: Relatives (e.g. partners or children) of deceased patients with organ failure (n = 61) were more likely to have negative experiences regarding the expertise of healthcare professionals compared with relatives of patients with cancer (n = 215). Relatives of frail patients (n = 180) gave a relatively low rating of the general quality of the care in the last week of the patient's life, both as regards the care provided to patients (p = 0.015) and as regards the support to relatives (p = 0.009).

Conclusion: Compared with the bereaved relatives of patients with cancer, bereaved relatives of patients with organ failure or frailty were more likely to negatively assess the palliative care provided to both the patient and themselves. Improving professionals' expertise in palliative care for people with non-cancer conditions is recommended.

Keywords: Palliative care; cancer; chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; frail elderly; quality of healthcare; relatives.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Consumer Behavior / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Frail Elderly*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multiple Organ Failure / therapy*
  • Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Netherlands
  • Palliative Care / standards*
  • Quality of Health Care / standards*
  • Young Adult