Role and response of hospices in Italy to COVID-19

7th April 2020

Palliative care is an important component of healthcare in pandemics, contributing to symptom control, psychological support, and supporting triage and complex decision making.

Researchers in Italy and the UK have conducted a national phone survey of hospices in Italy to find out their response to the current pandemic.

Seven high risk, five medium risk and four low risk hospices provided data. Two high risk hospices had experienced COVID-19 cases among both patients and staff. All hospices had implemented policy changes, and several had rapidly implemented changes in practice including transfer of staff from inpatient to community settings, change in admission criteria, and daily telephone support for families.

Concerns included scarcity of personal protective equipment, a lack of hospice-specific guidance on COVID-19, anxiety about needing to care for children and other relatives, and poor integration of palliative care in the acute setting.

The researchers concluded that the hospice sector is capable of responding flexibly and rapidly to the COVID-19 pandemic. Governments must urgently recognise the essential contribution of hospice and palliative care to the COVID-19 pandemic, and ensure these services are integrated into the health care system response. Availability of personal protective equipment and setting-specific guidance is essential.

Costantini M, Sleeman KE, Peruselli C, Higginson IJ. Response and role of palliative care during the COVID-19 pandemic: a national telephone survey of hospices in Italy. preprint online 20 March 2020.