The challenges of caring for people dying from COVID-19: a multinational, observational study (CovPall)

Adejoke Oluyase, Mevhibe Hocaoglu, Rachel Cripps, Matthew Maddocks, Catherine Walshe, Lorna K. Fraser, Nancy Preston, Lesley Dunleavy, Andy Bradshaw, Fliss E.M. Murtagh, Sabrina Bajwah, Katherine Sleeman, Irene Higginson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Citations (Scopus)


Context: Systematic data on the care of people dying with COVID-19 are scarce. Objectives: To understand the response of and challenges faced by palliative care services during the COVID-19 pandemic, and identify associated factors. Methods: We surveyed palliative care and hospice services, contacted via relevant organizations. Multivariable logistic regression identified associations with challenges. Content analysis explored free text responses. Results: A total of 458 services responded; 277 UK, 85 rest of Europe, 95 rest of the world; 81% cared for patients with suspected or confirmed COVID-19, 77% had staff with suspected or confirmed COVID-19; 48% reported shortages of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), 40% staff shortages, 24% medicines shortages, 14% shortages of other equipment. Services provided direct care and education in symptom management and communication; 91% changed how they worked. Care often shifted to increased community and hospital care, with fewer admissions to inpatient palliative care units. Factors associated with increased odds of PPE shortages were: charity rather than public management (OR 3.07, 95% CI 1.81–5.20), inpatient palliative care unit rather than other settings (OR 2.34, 95% CI 1.46–3.75). Being outside the UK was associated with lower odds of staff shortages (OR 0.44, 95% CI 0.26–0.76). Staff described increased workload, concerns for their colleagues who were ill, whilst expending time struggling to get essential equipment and medicines, perceiving they were not a front-line service. Conclusion: Palliative care services were often overwhelmed, yet felt ignored in the COVID-19 response. Palliative care needs better integration with health care systems when planning and responding to future epidemics/pandemics.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)460-470
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Pain and Symptom Management
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2021


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