Yorkshire Cancer Research is investing £1.3m in a four-year programme of research to improve the quality of palliative care in the region. Professor Fliss Murtagh Associate Director of the University of Hull’s recently established Wolfson Palliative Care Research Centre and Professor of Palliative Medicine at Hull York Medical School, and Professor Michael Bennett at the University of Leeds’ Academic Unit of Palliative Care will lead a multi centre team to advance improvements in palliative care across Yorkshire.
The research will investigate how and when patients access palliative care with a view to introducing new measures to improve how symptoms are formally assessed and monitored, and equip clinical teams with the resources and training to help them address those symptoms.
Nearly 14,000 people die from cancer every year in Yorkshire. In the weeks and months before they die, cancer patients often experience breathlessness, fatigue and high levels of pain, alongside other concerns such as practical worries i.e. finance, and the need for family support. Up to 8,000 patients in Yorkshire will experience moderate to severe pain before they die, with up to 40% reporting uncontrolled pain.
Palliative care aims to make patients as comfortable as possible by managing pain and other distressing symptoms and providing psychological and social support for patients and their family or carers. However, despite a growing need for specialist palliative care support, unlike other areas of medicine, the knowledge base to support the understanding of palliative needs and the development of specialist services is still relatively small. There are also inequalities in access to palliative care across Yorkshire. Previous studies have shown that in Leeds, just 65% of patients with cancer receive palliative care before they die.
This programme will directly improve the health status and symptom experience of Yorkshire patients living with advanced cancer and support their families. It will achieve this by recognising early those who need help, implementing regular assessment and monitoring of symptoms and other concerns, and providing better management of the most challenging symptoms.
The team will work in partnership with local hospices and Clinical Commissioning Groups to develop the programme.
Professor Murtagh says: “At the Wolfson Palliative Care Research Centre and Hull York Medical School we are committed to helping those with life limiting conditions live as well as they can, and, when the time comes giving them control of their symptoms and support at the end of their life.
‘Despite increased understanding of palliative care and improvements to services, unlike other areas of medicine, the knowledge base to support palliative care clinical practice remains small and systems of support are not fully developed to truly help all patients and their families when needed.