Protocol for a mixed methods exploratory investigation into the role and contribution of the healthcare assistant in out-of-hours palliative care

BMC Nurs. 2021 Apr 8;20(1):55. doi: 10.1186/s12912-021-00570-x.


Background: Most people spend their last year of life at home, with many wishing to die there, but patients may need access to care after hours. Out-of-hours palliative care is delivered by multi-disciplinary teams including Health Care Assistants (HCA). However, little is known about the role, contribution and impact Health Care Assistants have on out-of-hours palliative care services. The aim of this study is to examine the Health Care Assistant role, contribution and impact on service delivery and patient care in out-of-hours community palliative care provided by hospice organisations.

Methods and analysis: A mixed methods exploratory study consisting of four phases. Phase one involves a scoping review to systematically map and identify gaps in policy and literature on the HCA role in out-of-hours palliative care. In phase two, all United Kingdom hospices will be invited to participate in an online census to enable the development of a typology of out-of-hours services and the contribution of the Health Care Assistant. During phase three organisational case studies representing different service types will collect information from Health Care Assistants, patients, caregivers and service managers to gather qualitative and quantitative data about out-of-hours service provision and the Health Care Assistant role. Finally, phase four will synthesize and refine results through online focus groups.

Ethics and dissemination: Ethical approval has been obtained for phase two through Ulster University Research Governance Filter Committee, Nursing and Health Research. Findings will be disseminated through practitioner and/or research journals, conferences, and social media.

Keywords: After hours; Health care assistant; Hospice; Mixed methods; Out-of-hours care; Palliative care.