To identify the position of formal service providers in the networks of those providing end-of-life care in the home from the perspective of the informal network.
Using third-generation social network analysis, this study examined the nature and strength of relationships of informal caring networks with formal service providers through individual carer interviews, focus groups of caring networks and outer network interviews.
Service providers were usually highly valued for providing services, equipment, pain management and personalised care for the dying person plus support and advice to the principal carer about both caring tasks and negotiating the health system. However, formal service providers were positioned as marginal in the caring network. Analysis of the relative density of relationships within networks showed that whereas relationships among family and friends had similar density, relationships between service providers and family or friends were significantly lower.
The results supported the Circles of Care model and mirror the perspective of formal service providers identified in previous research. The research raises questions about how formal and informal networks might be better integrated to increase their effectiveness for supporting in-home care.