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How does English national end-of-life care policy impact on the experience of older people at the end of life? Findings from a realist evaluation

Barker, Rhiannon, Wilson, Patricia M., Butler, Claire (2021) How does English national end-of-life care policy impact on the experience of older people at the end of life? Findings from a realist evaluation. Primary Health Care Research & Development, 22 . Article Number e57. ISSN 1463-4236. (doi:10.1017/S1463423621000621) (KAR id:104553)


Aim: To explore the extent to which national policy in end-of-life care (EOLC) in England influences and guides local practice, helping to ensure that care for older people at the EOL is of a consistently good quality.

Background: Whilst policy is recognised as an important component in determining the effectiveness of EOLC, there is scant literature which attempts to interrogate how this happens or to hypothesise the mechanisms linking policy to better outcomes.

Method: This article reports on the second phase of a realist evaluation comprising three case studies of clinical commissioning groups, including 98 in-depth interviews with stakeholders, meeting observation and documentary analysis.

Findings: This study reveals the key contextual factors which need to be in place at micro, meso and macro levels if good quality EOLC for older people is to be achieved. The findings provide insight into rising local inequalities and reveal areas of dissonance between stakeholder priorities. Whilst patients privilege the importance of receiving care and compassion in familiar surroundings at EOL, there remains a clear tension between this and the medical drive to cure disease and extend life. The apparent devaluing of social care and subsequent lack of resource has impacted significantly on the way in which dying is experienced.Patient experience at EOL, shaped by the care received both formally and informally, is driven by a fragmented health and social care system. Whilst the importance of system integration appears to have been recognised, significant challenges remain in terms of shaping policy to adequately reflect this. This study highlights the priority attached by patients and their families to the social and relational aspect of death and dying and shines a light on the stark disparities between the health and social care systems which became even more evident at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1017/S1463423621000621
Uncontrolled keywords: end of life care; national policy; patient experience; qualitative research; realist evaluation
Subjects: H Social Sciences
Divisions: Divisions > Division for the Study of Law, Society and Social Justice > School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research > Centre for Health Services Studies
Funders: University of Kent (
Depositing User: Sian Robertson
Date Deposited: 09 Jan 2024 15:06 UTC
Last Modified: 11 Jan 2024 02:31 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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