Project

PEOLC12 Bereavement care during the COVID-19 pandemic

Summary

An online survey of professionals involved in bereavement care provision, concerning changes in the provision of bereavement care during the COVID-19 pandemic, was completed between 3rd August-4th September 2020. 805 responses were received from a range of professionals across the UK: rapid dissemination of findings is planned in order to contribute to improvements to bereavement care practice during the ongoing pandemic.

Background 

The COVID-19 pandemic presents significant challenges to individual and societal experiences of death, dying and bereavement. Deaths by COVID-19 are characterised by factors that may increase risk of complicated and prolonged grief responses. Social distancing measures have impacted on all those bereaved during this period not only from COVID-19, causing restrictions on visiting in hospitals and hospices, viewing the deceased person’s body, and carrying out funeral proceedings. Bereaved people may feel especially isolated and unable to access the social support that would normally be of great support. Due to the unprecedented nature of this crisis, evidence is limited on how and in what ways it will impact on the experience of bereavement.

Project aims

To support practitioners and policy-makers, we surveyed UK & Ireland professionals and investigated how bereavement care practice has changed in response to revised national guidance and local demands during the COVID-19 pandemic, with a focus on:

- identifying bereaved people who might need support

- restrictions regarding funeral arrangements

- supporting people bereaved from COVID and non-COVID conditions

- supporting people bereaved before the pandemic

- managing complex forms of grief,

- use of telephone, video or other remote support

- access to specialist services for the bereaved.

A second phase of the study is planned which will focus on the experiences of those bereaved during this period.

Project activity  

Early analysis of the rich data obtained from the web-based survey is now complete: we plan to send a paper to a journal in the near future.

We plan to then undertake a more in-depth analysis of the free-text comments supplied by the respondents.

We are developing a grant application for a subsequent interview study (see below)

Potential or actual impact

The work on the web-based survey will be published shortly

We aim to publish another paper on the results of the follow up interviews.

We aim to develop recommendations for supporting people bereaved in these unprecedented times.

Next steps

Depending on how the pandemic evolves, we may further conduct another study on this topic.

Related projects?

We are working with colleagues in Public Health England, the National Bereavement Alliance and the Department of Health and Social Care on a set of literature reviews on the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of bereavement support. We hope that these will influence Government investment in bereavement support services.

Who is involved?

PI Prof Stephen Barclay

Researchers and institutions

Prof Stephen Barclay, Dr Caroline Pierce

Contact

Prof Stephen Barclay

sigb2@medschl.cam.ac.uk