Out-of-hours primary care use at the end of life: A descriptive study
Background Out-of-hours (OOH) primary care services are integral to the care of patients at end of life. Little is known about the OOH service usage of patients with palliative care needs. Aim To describe patterns of usage of patients presenting to an OOH service and coded as 'palliative'. Design and setting A descriptive study of data from the Oxfordshire OOH service. Method A database of all patient contacts with the Oxfordshire OOH service from a 4-year period (June 2010-August 2014) was used to extract demographic and service usage data for all contacts to which clinicians had applied a 'palliative' code. Observed differences in demographic features between palliative and non-palliative contacts were tested using logistic regression. Results Out of a total of 496 931 contacts, there were 6045 contacts coded palliative; those 'palliative' contacts provided care to 3760 patients. Patients contacting the OOH service with palliative care needs did so predominantly during weekend daytime periods, and over a third had more than one contact. Patients were predictably older than the average population, but contacts coded as 'palliative' were relatively less deprived than contacts to the OOH service for all causes, even after adjusting for age and sex. Conclusion The current 'one-size-fits-most' model of OOH primary care may not allow for the specific needs of patients at the end of life. Wider analysis of palliative patient flow through urgent care services is needed to identify whether healthcare access at the end of life is inequitable, as well as the capacity requirements of a community-based service that can provide high-quality end-of-life care.