Patterns of Access to Community Palliative Care Services: A Literature Review

Catherine Walshe, Chris Todd, Ann Caress, Carolyn Chew-Graham

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

96 Citations (Scopus)


Policies state that access to palliative care should be provided according to principles of equity. Such principles would include the absence of disparities in access to health care that are systematically associated with social advantage. A review of the literature a decade ago identified that patients with different characteristics used community palliative care services in variable ways that appeared inequitable. The objective of this literature review was to review recent literature to identify whether such variability remains. Searching included the use of electronic databases, scrutinizing bibliographies, and hand searching journals. Articles were included if they were published after 1997 (the date of the previous review) up to the beginning of 2008, and if they reported any data that investigated the characteristics of adult patients in relation to their relative utilization of community palliative care services, with reference to a comparator population. Forty- eight studies met the inclusion criteria. Patients still access community palliative care services in variable ways. Those who are older, male, from ethnic minority populations, not married, without a home carer, are socioeconomically disadvantaged, and who do not have cancer are all less likely to access community palliative care services. These studies do not identify the reasons for such variable access, or whether such variability is warranted with reference to clinical need or other factors. Studies tend to focus on access to specialist palliative care services without looking at the complexities of service use. Studies need to move beyond description of utilization patterns, and examine whether such patterns are inequitable, and what is happening in the referral or other processes that may result in such patterns.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)884-912
Number of pages29
JournalJournal of Pain and Symptom Management
Issue number5
Early online date21 Dec 2008
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2009
Externally publishedYes


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