A University of Stirling academic has been awarded £600,000 from the National Institute for Health Research to improve end-of-life care in UK care homes.
The project, led by Dr Liz Forbat, an expert in ageing and palliative care, follows the success of her Australian trial which tested a system called ‘Palliative Care Needs Rounds’ and improved access to palliative care for care home residents. Needs Rounds involved introducing regular staff meetings to discuss residents most at risk of dying and, following a review of the person’s physical, psychological, and social wellbeing, putting a specific plan of necessary actions in place.
Dr Forbat, Associate Professor in the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Stirling, said: “Up to 50 per cent of care home residents in the UK die within 6 months of admission. They are often frail and have lots of complex health problems, but despite their needs, some residents don’t get access to end of life care from hospice teams, so may experience unnecessary and distressing symptoms at end of life. This is unjust - older people in residential care should receive the same high quality of palliative care which is provided in the community.
“Through the Australian study, we found that by introducing Needs Rounds, people died in their preferred place more often, had a better quality of death, stayed out of hospital, and care home staff felt more confident looking after them. We want to explore whether Needs Rounds can be used in the UK.”
The UK study will focus on six specialist palliative care services in Scotland and England. The research team, which also includes researchers from the University of Edinburgh, Queen Margaret University, University of Leeds and University of Newcastle, will conduct interviews and run workshops to co-design Needs Rounds with care home clinicians.
The results will be shared with care homes, residents, relatives, and GPs, as well as with specialists across the sector. The team also aims to develop an implementation package to provide all the tools and resources required to adopt UK Needs Rounds.
Dr Forbat, who also leads the research modules on Stirling’s new MSc in Global Ageing, added: “At the end of the study we hope to have produced a UK-version of Needs Rounds, and have evidence on whether it helps UK care home residents to stay out of hospital, improves symptom control for better deaths, improves staff capability to look after older people in care homes at end of life, and reduce hospital costs.”