Background Hospices are an important component of children's palliative care provision and increasing numbers of children/young people with life-limiting conditions mean that the demand placed on them for support is likely to increase. However, there has been a lack of published research examining how families experience the support provided by children's hospices.
Methods The aim of the study was to investigate parents' and young people's perceptions of hospice support and identify how support could be improved. A mixed-method approach was used involving a postal survey of families and in-depth qualitative interviews with a purposively sampled subsample of parents and young people.
Results A total of 108 (49.8% response rate) questionnaires were returned and interviews were conducted with 12 parents and seven young people. Families were highly satisfied with the support provided in terms of quality of care; interpersonal qualities of the staff; the individualized, family-focused approach; accessibility of support and involvement in decision making. Young people valued the opportunity to meet with other young people and take part in different activities. For parents the provision of a break from caring was the main way in which they were supported although they felt they wanted more of this form of support. A consistent theme in relation to support for young people and siblings was the need to develop facilities, activities and bereavement support specifically for teenagers/young people.
Conclusions Parents value a model of care that provides holistic, family-focused support that is responsive to individual needs and which promotes control and active involvement in decision making. The key challenge now is to respond to increasing need and a changing population of users.