Does hospital at home for palliative care facilitate death at home? Randomised controlled trial

Gunn E Grande, Chris J Todd, Stephen I G Barclay, Morag C Farquhar

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Abstract

Objective: To evaluate the impact on place of death of a hospital at home service for palliative care.

Design: Pragmatic randomised controlled trial.

Setting: Former Cambridge health district.

Participants: 229 patients referred to the hospital at home service; 43 randomised to control group (standard care), 186 randomised to hospital at home.

Intervention: Hospital at home versus standard care.

Main outcome measures: Place of death.

Results: Twenty five (58%) control patients died at home compared with 124 (67%) patients allocated to hospital at home. This difference was not significant; intention to treat analysis did not show that hospital at home increased the number of deathsat home. Seventy three patients randomised to hospital at home were not admitted to the service. Patients admitted to hospital at home were significantly more likely to die at home (88/113; 78%) than control patients. It is not possible to determine whether this was due to hospital at home itself or other characteristics of the patients admitted to the service. The study attained less statistical power than initially planned.

Conclusion: In a locality with good provision of standard community carewe could not show that hospital at home allowed more patients to die at home, although neither does the study refute this. Problems relating to recruitment, attrition, and the vulnerability of the patient group make randomised controlled trials in palliative care difficult. Whilethese difficulties have to be recognised they are not insurmountable with the appropriateresourcing and setting.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1472
JournalBMJ
Volume319
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 4 Dec 1999

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