Oncologists express concern about the competency of paediatric palliative care teams

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Although a significant proportion of children with cancer need palliative care, few are referred or referred late, with oncologists and haematologists gatekeeping the referral process.


Four themes were generated.

1) Oncologists expressed concern about the competency of palliative care teams. Palliative care often symbolised therapeutic failure and abandonment, which hindered referral. Trustworthy palliative care providers had clinical competence, benevolence, and knowledge of oncology and paediatrics.

2) Making a palliative care referral was associated with stigma, navigating illness-related factors, negative family attitudes and limited resources, impeding palliative care referral.

3) There were benefits to palliative care referral, including symptom management and psychosocial support for patients. However, some could see interactions with the palliative care team as interference hindering future referrals.

4) Suggested strategies for developing an integrated palliative care model include evident collaboration between oncology and palliative care, early referral, rebranding palliative care as symptom control and an accessible, knowledgeable, and proactive palliative care team.

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