Journal Article

Bereavement Assessment Practice in Hospice Settings: Challenges for Palliative Care Social Workers

Audrey Agnew, Roger Manktelow, Tommy Haynes and Louise Jones

in The British Journal of Social Work

Published on behalf of British Association of Social Workers

Volume 41, issue 1, pages 111-130
Published in print January 2011 | ISSN: 0045-3102
Published online May 2010 | e-ISSN: 1468-263X | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/bjsw/bcq055
Bereavement Assessment Practice in Hospice Settings: Challenges for Palliative Care Social Workers

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The management and delivery of bereavement support services in palliative care settings present practical and ethical challenges. A national survey, conducted in 2007, examined bereavement practice in ten Marie Curie hospices across the UK. This qualitative study was undertaken using semi-structured telephone interviews with Bereavement Service Leaders located in each hospice. Although findings revealed that bereavement services were in operation and had been reviewed in response to the National Institute for Clinical Excellence Guidance (2004) and all bereaved families were offered support, there was no standardisation of service delivery across sites. Multidisciplinary team meetings facilitated shared decision making for bereavement follow-up and expanded and clarified documentation completed by nursing staff around the time of the patient's death. However, there was ambiguity regarding professional ‘duty of care’ and agency responses to bereaved individuals who were suicidal. Questions were raised around clinical effectiveness, reliability and professional accountability. The study highlighted ethical issues centred on documentation, user participation and consent, and found staff training was variable across the ten hospices. The findings have informed the development of a post-bereavement service model that has been subsequently implemented across Marie Curie Cancer Care.

Keywords: Bereavement; assessment; hospice; social work

Journal Article.  6620 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Social Work

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