Purpose: Cancer specialists can facilitate timely and appropriate access to specialized palliative care (SPC) services. To better match patients' needs with access to SPC services, we must understand factors associated with referral. This study aimed to investigate cancer specialists' referral practices, perceptions of, barriers to and triggers for referral of people with advanced cancer to SPC services. Method: A self-report questionnaire was mailed to all oncologists, clinical haematologists, respiratory physicians and colorectal surgeons in Australia (N = 1713). Results: Out of 699 specialists who participated, 48% reported referring >60% of patients to SPC services. Most frequent reasons for referral were: the future need for symptom control, the presence of a terminal illness or uncontrolled physical symptoms. Psychosocial issues rarely triggered referral. Main reasons reported for not referring included: ability to manage patients' symptoms; the absence of symptoms or rapid deterioration. Significant predictors of referral (P < 0.05) included: being female; >10 years of practice in the speciality; agreeing all people with advanced cancer need referral, referral for the purpose of multidisciplinary management and having SPC services available. Conclusions: Specialists mainly refer people with advanced cancer for symptom-related reasons. Measures are needed to encourage ongoinq needs-based assessments, especially of emotional, cultural and spiritual issues.
- Palliative care