Background: During the COVID-19 outbreak restricting measures may have affected the provision of good end-of-life care for patients with and without COVID-19.
Aim: To describe characteristics of patients who died and the care they received, and to examine how patient characteristics, setting and visiting restrictions are related to provided care and evaluation of the dying process.
Design: An open observational online survey among healthcare professionals about their experience of end-of-life care that was provided to a patient with or without COVID-19 who died between March and July 2020.
Setting/participants: Healthcare professionals (nurses, physicians and others) in the Netherlands from all settings: home (n = 163), hospital (n = 249), nursing home (n = 192), hospice (n = 89) or elsewhere (n = 68).
Results: Of patients reported on, 56% had COVID-19. Among these patients, 358 (84.4%) also had a serious chronic illness. Having COVID-19 was negatively, and having a serious chronic illness was positively associated with healthcare staff's favourable appreciation of end-of-life care. Often there had been visiting restrictions in the last 2 days of life (75.8%). This was negatively associated with appreciation of care at the end of life and the dying process. Finally, care at the end of life was less favourably appreciated in hospitals and especially nursing homes, and more favourably in home settings and especially hospices.
Conclusions: Our study suggests that end-of-life care during the COVID-19 pandemic may be further optimised, especially in nursing homes and hospitals. Allowing at least some level of visits of relatives seems a key component.
Keywords: COVID-19; end of life; palliative care; quality of care; quality of dying.