What influences referrals in community palliative care services? A case study.

Catherine Walshe

    Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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    Equity of access to healthcare services is a concept which underpins current UK health policy. However evidence suggests that this is not achieved within community palliative care. Referrals can be tardy or not made at all. Most literature describes inequality in service utilisation, but does not aid understanding of why such inequalities exist. There is little research exploring the processes underpinning referral making rather than the outcomes of referrals such as service utilisation.The aim of this research was to investigate the influences on referral decisions made within community palliative care services. A qualitative case study strategy was chosen as the research approach as it provided a framework for facilitating the incorporation of multiple perspectives in a complex context, in a field where there has been little previous research, and where there is little theory to guide the investigation. Three cases (Primary Care Trusts) were studied. Data collection used multiple methods (interviews, observation and documentary analysis, as well as mapping and profiling the palliative care services provided within the cases) from multiple perspectives (general and specialist palliative care professionals, managers, commissioners and patients). Detailed data analysis followed a framework approach, comparing and contrasting patterns within and across cases with existing and developing theoretical propositions. Two core influences on the way health care professionals made referral decisions were found. First, their perception of their own role in providing palliative care. Autonomous professionals made independent judgements about referrals, influenced by their expertise, workload, the special nature of palliative care and the relationship they developed with patients. Second, their perception about those to whom they may refer. Professionals needed to know about services to refer, and then made a complex judgement about the professionals involved and what they could offer the referrer as well as the patient. These findings indicate that many more factors than an assessment of patients??? clinical need affect referrals within community palliative care services. It appears that personal, inter-personal and inter-professional factors have the potential to shape referral practices. It may be that the combination of these factors has an influence on equitable access to community palliative care services. Practitioners could be more explicit about referral or non-referral rationales, and policy makers take account of these complex influences on referrals rather than just mandating change.
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • The University of Manchester
    Publication statusPublished - Dec 2006


    • palliative care
    • primary care
    • access


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