Death from cancer: frequent unscheduled care

BMJ Support Palliat Care. 2022 Mar 29;bmjspcare-2021-003448. doi: 10.1136/bmjspcare-2021-003448. Online ahead of print.


Objective: To examine the demographic, clinical, and temporal factors associated with cancer decedents being a frequent or very frequent unscheduled care (GP-general practice Out-Of-Hours (GPOOH) and Accident & Emergency (A&E)) attender, in their last year of life.

Methods: Retrospective cohort study, of all 2443 cancer decedents in Tayside, Scotland, over 30- months period up to 06/2015, comparing frequent attenders (5-9 attendances/year) and very frequent attenders (≥10 attendances/year) to infrequent attenders (1-4 attendances/year) and non-attenders. Clinical and demographic datasets were linked to routinely-collected clinical data using the Community Health Index number. Anonymised linked data were analysed in SafeHaven, using binary/multinomial logistic regression, and Generalised Estimating Equations analysis.

Results: Frequent attenders were more likely to be older, and have upper gastrointestinal (GI), haematological, breast and ovarian malignancies, and less likely to live in accessible areas or have a late cancer diagnosis. They were more likely to use GPOOH than A&E, less likely to have face-to-face unscheduled care attendances, and less likely to be admitted to hospital following unscheduled care attendance.

Conclusions: Age, cancer type, accessibility and timing of diagnosis relative to death were associated with increased likelihood of being a frequent or very frequent attender at unscheduled care.

Keywords: cancer; end-of-life care; quality of life; symptoms and symptom management; terminal care.