Yorkshire Cancer Research will invest £1.3m in a four-year programme of research to improve the quality of palliative care in the region.
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.
The researchers will be led by 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.
Nearly 14,000 people die from cancer every year in Yorkshire 1. 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 and the need for family support. Up to 8,000 patients in Yorkshire will experience moderate to severe pain before they die 3, with up to 40% reporting uncontrolled pain 4.
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 2.
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 said: “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 times comes giving them control of their symptoms and courage when they die.
“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.
“This programme will enable us to build on existing research undertaken by the University of Hull, Hull York Medical School and the University of Leeds to deliver a step change in palliative care across Yorkshire– helping clinicians identify and refer patients that require palliative care to ensure they are referred as soon as possible. It will also help Yorkshire hospices deliver palliative care more efficiently by implementing clear assessment and outcome measures.
“Additionally, we will develop, implement and evaluate symptom control strategies for pain, breathlessness and fatigue – some of the most common and distressing symptoms for cancer patients. The programme will deliver a step change in palliative care across Yorkshire, providing guidance for NHS policy makers, commissioners and providers on improving access to palliative care and ensuring that people with life-limiting illnesses are able to access the care and support they need and deserve. We are extremely grateful to Yorkshire Cancer Research for this vital funding.”
Dr Kathryn Scott, Chief Executive at Yorkshire Cancer Research, said: “There is a huge unmet need to improve palliative care in our region. It is essential that patients are comfortable when they are going through the final stages of their experience with cancer, and that their families are supported on this journey.
“This programme will involve hospices across Yorkshire and thousands of patients with advanced cancer. It will establish Yorkshire as a leading region for the highest possible quality palliative care. We are very proud to be funding this project and would like to thank all our supporters for making this investment possible.”
The project is part of a £3.6m investment by the charity in research that will improve the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer across Yorkshire.
2. Ziegler L, Hill K, Nielly L, Bennett MI, Higginson IJ, Murray SA, Stark D. Identifying psychological distress at key stages of the cancer illness trajectory: A systematic review of self-report measures. Journal of Pain and Symptom Management 2011;41(3):619-36
3. van den Beuken-van Everdingen MH, de Rijke JM, Kessels AG, et al. Prevalence of pain in patients with cancer: a systematic review of the past 40 years. Annals of Oncology 2007;18(9):1437-49.
4. Breivik H, Cherny N, Collett B, de Conno F, Filbet M, Foubert AJ, Cohen R, Dow L. Cancer-related pain: a pan-European survey of prevalence, treatment, and patient attitudes. Ann Oncol. 2009 Aug;20(8):1420-33
Notes to Editors
- Harrogate-based Yorkshire Cancer Research was founded in 1925 and is the largest independent regional cancer charity in England (Registered Charity 516898). We are not part of a national charity.
- We are committed to reducing the devastating impact of cancer on the lives of people living in Yorkshire.
- Our mission is to work in partnership, fund research and support initiatives that will help people in Yorkshire avoid, survive and cope with cancer.
- Current statistics show that 575 people are diagnosed with cancer in Yorkshire every week. Incidence and mortality rates are higher than the England average due to social deprivation, post-industrialisation and lifestyle choices but also availability of healthcare services and difficulties accessing early diagnostics, clinical trials and the latest treatments.
- We aim to:
- Be the leading authority on cancer in Yorkshire, understanding the problems and priorities in the region and sharing knowledge with partners.
- Raise awareness of cancer and how to prevent it by working in local communities, schools and colleges, sports clubs and with other health-related organisations.
- Promote screening programmes and fund research that can improve the diagnosis of cancer so we can detect and treat it at the earliest opportunity.
- Invest in innovative research projects at every stage of a cancer patient's journey.
- Campaign for fair and equal access to the very best healthcare services and a greater share of the money spent nationally on research.
- For further information, please visit www.yorkshirecancerresearch.org.uk or follow us on Facebook or Twitter