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The Provision of
Bereavement Support
Services  A Pilot Study

This study was published in July 2000 and is now available to download in acrobat pdf format.

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The Provision of Bereavement Support Services: A Pilot Study (abstract)

Introduction - The emotional distress among family members of dying patients has been identified in a range of studies 1,2,3, which pointed out the need to acknowledge this psychological impact on the well-being of the bereaved people, and to develop resources and services to assist families in coping with bereavement. This pilot study aimed to establish the level of bereavement support provided by healthcare professionals for the East Riding Health Authority.

Methodology - Healthcare professionals who had experience of working with the dying and bereaved were interviewed. In order to ensure an appropriate representation of bereavement services, participants were selected from the hospital, the community and the primary care settings.

Results - Bereavement services provided within the hospital setting were more reactive than proactive. Most of the cases of bereavement support were initiated by the bereaved themselves. The nature of the service provided by hospital staff suggests that the staff were mainly involved in assessment and referrals rather than in ongoing support. Furthermore, the use of an assessment tool was not reported and bereavement need was identified informally through contacts with the bereaved. All the participants believed they had a significant role in the provision of bereavement support. Nevertheless, hospital staff were not totally confident whether their role was recognised by their professional group and/or their Trust. All the GPs and community nurses reported providing a bereavement service to their patients; theu believed it was their role to provide this support when it was needed, and this role was recognised by their professional groups.

There seemed to be insufficient bereavement policy statements. This lack of clear policy resulted in:

  • Diversity in the level of support provided within the specialties and received by different groups of bereaved people,
  • Significant communication problems between the secondary and primary care systems, which resulted in lack of referrals from hospital to primary care,
  • Absence of a formal tool for needs assessment, and
  • Inadequate educational and emotional support for many providers of bereavement support.
  1. Cooley ME (1992). Bereavement care - a role for nurses. Cancer Nursing 15(2): 125-129.

  2. Kiecolt-Glaser JK, Dura JR, Spiecher LE, Trask OJ and Glaser R (1991). Spousal caregivers of dementia victims: longitudinal changes in immunity and health. Psychosomatic Medicine 53(4): 345-362.

  3. Littlewood J (1992). Aspects of Grief: Bereavement in adult life. Routledge (Pub.)