Facilitators and barriers to the delivery of palliative care to children with life-limiting and life-threatening conditions: a qualitative study of the experiences and perceptions of healthcare professionals
Mitchell S., Slowther A-M., Coad J., Bertaud S., Dale J.
ObjectiveTo understand healthcare system facilitators and barriers to the delivery of palliative care for children with life-limiting and life-threatening conditions and their family members.DesignFocus groups with children’s palliative care professionals. Data were analysed using thematic analysis.SettingFour regions of England (West Midlands, South West, Yorkshire and Humber, and London) from December 2017 to June 2018.ParticipantsHealthcare professionals (doctors, nurses and allied healthcare professionals) working in children’s palliative care services.FindingsA total of 71 healthcare professionals participated in the focus groups. Three overarching themes were identified which influenced whether and when children were referred to and started to receive palliative care: (1) the unspoken background of clinical uncertainty which often delayed palliative care; (2) the cultural ‘collusion of immortality’, where conversations about the possibility of dying can be avoided or deferred; and (3) the role of paediatric palliative care teams in ‘illuminating the blind spot’ of palliative care as well as providing hands-on care.ConclusionsPalliative care is a holistic approach to care that focuses on quality of life for people living with life-limiting and life-threatening conditions that can be delivered alongside active treatment. There is a need to prioritise and integrate this into healthcare services for children more effectively if improvements in care are to be realised. While more specialist paediatric palliative care services are needed, the unspoken background of clinical uncertainty needs to be addressed together with the collusion of immortality within healthcare culture and organisations.