This study compares terminal cancer care in 1967-69 with care in 1977-79 as evaluated by surviving spouses of patients who died in St Christopher's Hospice and other local hospitals. Patients and their surviving spouses reported less personal distress in both settings in 1977-79 than in 1967-69 and the patients were also thought to have suffered less pain. These differences were found before, during and, in surviving spouses, after the period of terminal care. They were confirmed in subsamples of 30-34 patients matched for age, sex, socio-economic status and duration of terminal period. Improvements may be attributable to the training in terminal care provided by staff of the Hospice since 1967 and augmented in its Study Centre which was opened in 1973. Although pain and distress in the patient is no longer a major problem in either setting, spouses in 1977-79 remain less anxious at St Christopher's Hospice than at other hospitals; they play a larger part in the care of the patient and are in closer contact with staff before and after bereavement.
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