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Optimum models of hospice at home services for end-of-life care in England: a realist-informed mixed-methods evaluation.

Butler, Claire, Wilson, Patricia M., Abrahamson, Vanessa, Mikelyte, Rasa, Gage, Heather, Williams, Peter, Brigden, Charlotte L., Swash, Brooke, Rees-Roberts, Melanie, Silsbury, Graham, and others. (2022) Optimum models of hospice at home services for end-of-life care in England: a realist-informed mixed-methods evaluation. Health and Social Care Delivery Research, 10 (24). pp. 1-304. ISSN 2755-0060. (doi:10.3310/MSAY4464) (KAR id:98442)




Many people prefer to die at home when the time comes. Hospice at home services aim to support patients to achieve this. A range of hospice at home services exist; some services have been evaluated, but there has been limited evidence synthesis.


The main objective was to find out what models of hospice at home services work best, for whom and in what circumstances. Other objectives supported this aim, including an analysis of the health economic costs of hospice at home models.


The study was an overarching, non-interventional, realist evaluation comprising three phases. Phase 1 was a survey of hospice at home services. Phase 2 involved 12 case studies, grouped into four models on the basis of size and 24 hours per day, 7 days per week (24/7), operations, from which quantitative and health economics data were gathered. Qualitative interview data from bereaved carers, commissioners and providers were analysed to generate context–mechanism–outcome configurations. Phase 3 comprised stakeholder consensus meetings.


Hospice at home services across England.


A total of 70 hospice at home managers responded to the survey. A total of 339 patient and family/informal carer dyads were recruited; 85 hospice at home providers and commissioners were interviewed. A total of 88 stakeholders participated in consensus meetings.

Main outcome measures

The quality of dying and death of patients was assessed by bereaved carers (using the Quality of Dying and Death questionnaire). A patient’s use of services was collected using the Ambulatory and Home Care Record.


Hospice at home services varied; two-thirds were mainly charitably funded, and not all operated 24/7. Most patients (77%) had cancer. Hospice at home services overall provided care that was likely to deliver ‘a good death’, and 73% of patients died in their preferred place. Six context–mechanism–outcome configurations captured factors relevant to providing optimum hospice at home services: (1) sustainability (of the hospice at home service); (2) volunteers (use of, in the hospice at home service); (3) integration and co-ordination (with the wider health and social care system); (4) marketing and referral (of the hospice at home service); (5) knowledge, skills and ethos (of hospice at home staff); and (6) support directed at the carer at home. Key markers of a good service included staff who had time to care, providing hands-on care; staff whose knowledge and behaviour promoted supportive relationships and confidence through the process of dying; and services attending to the needs of the informal carer. Areas of potential improvement for most hospice at home services were the use of volunteers in hospice at home, and bereavement care.


The study had the following limitations – heterogeneity of hospice at home services, variations in numbers and patient clinical statuses at recruitment, a low Quality of Dying and Death questionnaire response rate, and missing data. Only patients with an informal carer involved on a daily basis were eligible for the study.


Hospice at home services delivered high-quality care and a ‘good death’, with the majority of patients dying in their stated preferred place. Hospice at home providers can improve their impact by focusing on the features identified that deliver the best patient outcomes. Commissioners can facilitate patient preference and reduce the number of hospital deaths by working with hospice at home services to secure their financial sustainability and increase the numbers and range of patients admitted to hospice at home services.

Future research

Future research should explore the use of volunteers in the hospice at home setting and evaluate approaches to bereavement support.


This project was funded by the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) Health and Social Care Delivery Research programme and will be published in full in Health and Social Care Delivery Research; Vol. 10, No. 24. See the NIHR Journals Library website for further project information

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.3310/MSAY4464
Uncontrolled keywords: Health (social science), Care Planning, Health Policy
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
Depositing User: George Austin-Coskry
Date Deposited: 28 Nov 2022 11:35 UTC
Last Modified: 25 Aug 2023 13:45 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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