A donation of £2.8 million to Cicely Saunders International will be used to identify and train the future leaders in palliative care and therefore dramatically improve care and understanding in this Cinderella subject, as well as initiating much needed research in the area. It will go towards the Cicely Saunders Institute of Palliative Care at King's College London for project BuildCARE - (Building Capacity, Access, Rights and Empowerment).
Irene Higginson, Scientific Director of Cicely Saunders International and Professor of Palliative Care at King's explains how the money will be used: ‘With such an extraordinary generous amount of money we have ambitious aims and will seek to build upon and maximise the impact the Cicely Saunders Institute is already having on end of life and palliative care globally.
‘We will identify, recruit and develop future academic and clinical stars in the field of palliative care, build capacity for the future and begin a rolling programme of research. The latest technologies will be used to disseminate expertise and research developed by staff at the Institute across the globe. Strategies will be pioneered to engage our communities in our work as well as identifying variations in access to care.
‘We aim to empower patients, and improve the access to their care, and disseminate information to the public widely about our findings and how to get the best from palliative care, with a particular focus on improving the care for older people. As part of the programme we will be launching an international study, comparing palliative care experiences in London, Dublin and New York.'
There are a number of key challenges in the area of end of life and palliative care, especially for older people, which this donation will enable to be addressed.
For example: disparities in the care provided to patients and families and a serious lack of expertise at every level globally; ‘patchy' education provision on undergraduate and pre-registration healthcare courses; a ‘gap' between qualification and senior level researchers and clinicians which discourages them from pursuing this specialism; and a lack of progress in moving the achievements made in research and practice from the centres of excellence into the day-to-day work of clinicians.
Also, there is a lack of information on the cost effectiveness of palliative care, so there will be a new PhD fellowship to examine this. A second PhD fellowship will examine ways to improve palliative care for a very neglected group of patients - those with dementia - and their families. One further PhD fellowship will seek ways to improve palliative care in Ireland.
Professor Higginson emphasises: ‘This donation will substantially enhance the practice of palliative and end of life care globally, and will directly improve care for those at the end of life and for their families.'