21 January 2014 13:01

Lancaster University is part of a new European research programme developing and testing ways to improve palliative care for older people in nursing homes.

The project, Comparing Effectiveness of Palliative Care for Elderly People in Long-Term Care Facilities in Europe (PACE), will start on 1 February.

The £5.5 million, five-year study, funded by the European Community Framework 7, brings together leading academic researchers from six European countries.

Palliative care aims to improve quality of life and symptom management for people with advanced and chronic conditions, not just those with cancer.

Each country takes on responsibility for different elements of the large and complex study. Researchers in Belgium will take the lead working with researchers and clinicians from Italy, the Netherlands, Finland, UK and Poland.

Lancaster University’s International Observatory on End of Life Care (IOELC) were awarded  £583k to run the UK research element of the study which encompasses two main activities – mapping current provision of palliative care in care homes and developing the training for care home staff.

In the first year of the project, the Lancaster team will capture the current ways that palliative care is provided for older people living in care homes across 28 European countries. The mapping exercise will examine practices, processes and services and effectively establish a study benchmark.

The main project will include a three-year trial of a previously developed UK palliative care model. Research (including economic, staff and process elements) will determine if the new way to deliver care actually makes a difference.

The UK team will develop an educational resource pack to ensure the new model is culturally appropriate and suitable for adoption in participating countries and then support delivery of the tailored training packages for each country.

The sole UK research partner, Lancaster University, currently has a four-strong research team, led by Professor Sheila Payne and Dr Katherine Froggatt. This will swell to eight in due course to include two further full-time researchers, a trainer and a nurse to collect data in year three.

“The project will help the people who deliver care to older people in long-term care settings,” explained lead researcher and Senior Lecturer Dr Katherine Froggatt, who is renowned internationally for her research in this specialist field.

“We will develop the educational intervention and resources and then we shall be responsible for training the people who will implement this in their own countries.”

The teaching resource will use a ‘train the trainer’ style delivery method to cascade improvements quickly and effectively throughout the participating European countries.

Trainers from across Europe will attend a week-long training course at Lancaster University’s IOELC and will be supported by the Observatory throughout the implementation period.

Observatory Director Professor Sheila Payne explained the final part of the research would determine what was effective and then ensure those findings were then fed into policy development at a European Commission level to improve palliative care for older people in care homes.

“This hugely important area of care for older people is such a big issue in Europe with people living longer,” she said. “Care homes are likely to be a place where some older people will spend time and a place where many people die. This research programme seeks to ensure they die in the best and most dignified way they can. It’s really important and really challenging.

“This project builds on our portfolio of European studies,” added Professor Payne. “This is our fifth European study which is impressive for a small research team.”

For further information please contact Dr Katherine Froggatt (k.froggatt@lancaster.ac.uk).