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Palliat Med. 1996 Apr;10(2):151-61.

A randomized controlled trial of the cost-effectiveness of a district co-ordinating service for terminally ill cancer patients.

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  • 1Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, University College London, UK.


The objective of this paper is to compare the cost effectiveness of a co-ordination service with standard services for terminally ill cancer patients with a prognosis of less than one year. We designed a randomized controlled trial, with patients randomized by the general practice with which they were registered. Co-ordination group patients received the assistance of two nurse coordinators whose role was to ensure that patients had access to appropriate services. The setting was in a South London health authority. Complete service use and outcome data were collected on 167 patients, 86 in the co-ordination group, and 81 in the control group. Our results, as previously reported, show that no differences in outcomes were detected between the co-ordination and control groups; the mean total costs incurred by the co-ordination group were significantly less than those of the control group. The co-ordinated group used significantly fewer inpatient days (mean 24 versus 40 inpatient days; t = 2.4, p = 0.002) and nurse home visits (mean 14.5 versus 37.5 visits; t = 0.3, p = 0.01). Mean cost per co-ordinated patient was almost half that of the control group patients 4774 pounds versus 8034 pounds, t = 2.8, p = 0.006). Although the unit cost data were relatively crude, these cost reductions were insensitive to a wide range of unit costs. These differences persisted when, in order to control for any putative differences in severity between the two groups, the analysis was restricted to patients who had died by the end of the study. The ratio of potential cost savings to the cost of co-ordination service was between 4:1 and 8:1. In conclusion, the co-ordination service for cancer patients who were terminally ill with a prognosis of less than one year was more cost effective than standard services, due to achieving the same outcomes at lower service use, particularly inpatient days in acute hospital. Assuming that the observed effects are real, improved co-ordination of palliative care offers the potential for considerable savings. Further research is needed to explore this issue.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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