Guide to Hospice Care

Hospice Aid UK has prepared a handy guide to Hospice Care in the UK.  To view this guide in PDF format, or to save it to read offline, please click here.

For a complete list of all the UK's hospices, in alphabetical order, please click here.

For the list sorted by county, please click here.

What is Hospice Care?

Hospice care is intended for people with a life limiting or terminal illness. Services are provided free of charge by a team of health care professionals who help patients to live as actively as they can to the end of their lives, and maximizes comfort by reducing pain and addressing physical, psychological, social and spiritual needs. Unlike other medical care, however, the focus of hospice care isn't to cure or treat the underlying disease. The goal of hospice care is to provide the highest quality of life possible for whatever time remains. This is also known as palliative care.

Hospice benefits:

· Health care provider servicesGuide to Hospice Aid 2

· Nursing care

· Social work services

· Religious and spiritual support

· Medical equipment

· Medical supplies

· Medications for symptom control and pain relief

· In-home care

· Complementary therapy

· Physical and occupational therapy

· Speech therapy

· Dietary counseling

· Bereavement care for family and loved ones

Who can benefit from hospice care?

Hospice care is for anyone with a life limiting or terminal illness. There are Hospices for adults and children and young people. Hospice Care helps people with many different types of Illness.  Many people who receive hospice care have cancer, while others may have conditions such as heart disease, lung disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Hospice care can be provided at any stage of a person’s illness, not just at the end of their life. Enrolling in hospice care early may help you or your loved one develop a strong relationship with the hospice staff, who can help with preparation for end-of-life needs.

Where is Hospice Care provided?

Hospice care is provided in a number of different ways. This can be inpatient units, day care, Palliative care in hospitals and Care homes. Also many people prefer to be looked after in their own home and this is made possible through the Hospice at Home service and community Palliative care nurses.

Who's involved in hospice care?

A hospice care team typically includes:

Doctors. A primary care doctor and the hospice program's medical director — who typically has expertise in symptom management and end-of-life care — will oversee the loved one's care. The doctor approves the plan of care and works with the hospice team.

Nurses. Nurses will come to loved one's home or other setting to provide care. Nurses also address symptom management and concerns about end-of-life issues, as well as provide support for loved ones.

Home health aids. Home health aides can provide extra support for routine care, such as dressing, bathing and eating.

Spiritual counselors. Hospice care also tends to the spiritual needs. Since people differ in their spiritual needs and religious beliefs, spiritual care is set up to meet specific needs. Chaplains, priests, or other spiritual counselors can provide spiritual care and guidance for the entire family. Clergy and other spiritual counselors are available to visit and provide spiritual support at home. Spiritual care is a personal process, and may include helping explore what death means, resolving "unfinished business," saying goodbye to loved ones, and performing a specific religious ceremony or ritual.

Social workers. Social workers provide counseling and support. They can also help address insurance and financial concerns. A social worker counsels and advises, and acts as a community advocate, making sure there is access to the resources needed.

Volunteers. Trained hospice volunteers offer a variety of services depending on needs, from providing company or respite for caregivers to helping with transportation or other practical needs.

Physical, Occupational, and Speech Therapies. These hospice specialists can help develop new ways to perform tasks that may have become difficult due to illness, such as walking, dressing, or feeding oneself.

Respite Care. While in hospice, family and caregivers may need some time away. Hospice care may offer them a break called respite care. During this time a patient will be cared for either in a hospice facility or in beds that are set aside in nursing homes or hospitals. Respite care gives families a break from the intensity of care giving.

Bereavement counselors. Trained bereavement counselors offer support and guidance before and after the death of a loved one in hospice. Bereavement is the time of mourning everyone experiences following a loss. The hospice care team will work with surviving family members to help them through the grieving process.

Pain and symptom control. The goal of pain and symptom control is to keep patients as comfortable as possible to allow them to stay in control of and enjoy life. This means that side effects, discomfort, and pain are managed.

When should hospice services be considered?

Hospice care can be discussed at any time. Often, the discussion about hospice services takes place when the patient learns that:

- The illness is no longer treatable and that additional therapies will not provide any benefit

- A physical decline and exhaustion are likely to be permanent

- Treatment is no longer desired by the patient

Getting referred for Hospice Care

Generally patients are referred for Hospice care by their hospital doctor or GP. In some cases patients can also be referred by their district nurse. Patients and or relatives can also refer but the hospice would most likely need to discuss this with the patient’s professional health carer.

Patients are usually referred to their nearest Hospice, but if family and or loved ones live further away it may be possible for patients to be referred to a hospice closer to their loved ones.

Hospice medical equipment.

Hospice Care provides for all of a hospice patient’s medical needs related to symptom management and comfort care.

Examples include:


Hospital bed

Alternating pressure mattress

Over-the-bed table



Portable commode

Shower chair


Suction machines

Bathroom safety equipment


Feeding pumps

Other supplies provided by hospice can include:

Incontinent supplies

Catheter supplies

Mouth care supplies

Skin care lotions

Dressings and wound care supplies

What about alternative therapies?

Many hospices integrate different techniques and therapies outside the practice of mainstream medicine to support hospice patients and their families. Many hospice professionals have trained in alternative or complimentary therapies. In addition, many people who practice these techniques professionally volunteer their services to hospice clients.

The following are some of the techniques used to benefit patients:

- Relaxation techniques – Visualization, guided imagery

- Comfort touch, Reiki and Massage

- Aromatherapy

- Music

- Creative Expression – Art, Writing

Why choose Hospice Care

- Comprehensive, interdisciplinary care from a team of professionals and volunteers.

- Care is available 24 hours a day, including weekends and holidays. Patients and their caregivers always have access to hospice professionals when they need it.

- The hospice care team aims to support the patients and caregiver’s wishes while helping them achieve their goals for care.

- Hospice allows terminally ill people and their families to remain together in the comfort and dignity of familiar surroundings, often at home.

- Hospice care provides expert pain and symptom management allowing a terminally ill person to be as comfortable and pain-free as possible.

- Hospice treats the person, not the disease.

- Hospice care respects and reflects a person's choices about end-of-life care.

- Hospice cares for the entire family unit, not just the patient. A family member is anyone the patient shares a significant relationship with.

- Hospice Care focuses on quality not quantity of life.

- Hospice Care provides an interdisciplinary team of knowledgeable professionals and volunteers to care for people and their loved ones who are experiencing a life-limiting illness.

- Hospice Care is free.