Open Access Highly Accessed Study protocol

Evaluation of a hospice rapid response community service: a controlled evaluation

Claire Butler1, Laura M Holdsworth2*, Simon Coulton2 and Heather Gage3

Author Affiliations

1 Centre for Health Services Studies, George Allen Wing, Cornwallis Building, Canterbury, 56 London Road, CT2 7NF, UK

2 Pilgrims Hospices in East Kent, University of Kent, Canterbury, CT2 8JA, UK

3 Department of Economics, Faculty of Business, Economics and Law, University of Surrey, Staghill, Guildford, GU2 7XH, UK

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BMC Palliative Care 2012, 11:11  doi:10.1186/1472-684X-11-11

Published: 30 July 2012



While most people faced with a terminal illness would prefer to die at home, less than a third in England are enabled to do so with many dying in National Health Service hospitals. Patients are more likely to die at home if their carers receive professional support. Hospice rapid response teams, which provide specialist palliative care at home on a 24/7 on-call basis, are proposed as an effective way to help terminally ill patients die in their preferred place, usually at home. However, the effectiveness of rapid response teams has not been rigorously evaluated in terms of patient, carer and cost outcomes.


The study is a pragmatic quasi-experimental controlled trial. The primary outcome for the quantitative evaluation for patients is dying in their preferred place of death. Carers’ quality of life will be evaluated using postal questionnaires sent at patient intake to the hospice service and eight months later. Carers’ perceptions of care received and the patient’s death will be assessed in one to one interviews at 6 to 8 months post bereavement. Service utilisation costs including the rapid response intervention will be compared to those of usual care.


The study will contribute to the development of the evidence base on outcomes for patients and carers and costs of hospice rapid response teams operating in the community.

Trial registration: Current controlled trials ISRCTN32119670.

Rapid response service; Hospice at home; Pragmatic trial; Preferred place of death; Palliative care