Context: A number of studies have highlighted the poor quality of end-of-life (EOL) care provided in hospital settings, leading to a reduction in the quality of EOL care and increase in patient and caregiver dissatisfaction levels.
Objectives: The aims of this study were the evaluation of the prevalence of major symptoms, treatment, outcomes, information, and care provided to dying cancer patients in Italian hospitals; and an analysis of clinical and socio-demographic factors associated with caregiver satisfaction with the health care provided.
Methods: This is a mortality follow-back survey of 2,000 cancer deaths representative of the country. Caregivers were interviewed about patients' experiences by using a tailored version of the View of Informal Carers—Evaluation of Services questionnaire.
Results: Valid interviews were obtained for 84% (n=364) of the cancer patients who died in hospital. Most Italian cancer patients dying in hospital suffered from a number of untreated or poorly treated symptoms, and only a few reported an acceptable control over physical suffering. Moreover, only two-thirds of patients and one-third of caregivers received basic information on therapies and care. About one-third of the caregivers expressed dissatisfaction with the health care received. The probability of being satisfied was more likely for caregivers of patients living in the north of Italy; caregivers of patients who had not experienced or were only slightly distressed by fatigue; and caregivers who were generally satisfied with hospital facilities and when the health care professionals had provided appropriate information to both patients and caregivers.
Conclusion: This study revealed poor quality of EOL care in Italian hospitals, with almost one-third of the caregivers expressing their clear dissatisfaction. A national policy is, therefore, urgently called for to improve the quality of EOL care in Italian hospitals.